Sitting in Tel’s Barber Shop, there is a feeling of warmth and coziness that cannot be ignored. Tel Trujillo, his two sons and his grandson are the only barbers in the family-run shop, and it’s been that way since 1988.
They each speak with smiles strewn across their faces, chatting comfortably with their customers whom they are all familiar with. There is not a person who enters the shop who is not immediately recognized and greeted.
The shop, located at 2210 Pico Blvd., has a steady flow of customers who, after greeting the Trujillo family members, each sit down and grab one of the many magazines occupying a small but fully-stocked bookshelf.
It is known as an old-school barbershop, which is apparent when you walk through the door. The register is also telling of this, which is not only non-electric but looks like it could have been around before electricity was discovered.
His son Randy said that he had attempted to get his dad an electronic register at one time, and Tel’s response was a sort of blank stare and he seemed a little uncomfortable. Randy laughed and pointed out that it’s obviously not being used now.
Toward the back of the barber shop is a wall adorned with autographed photographs of stars, as well as one of the Trujillo family grouped together and smiling. Tel was happy to share that, in addition to the more famous celebrities pictured on the wall, important locals visit as well.
Some of his well-known locals is Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board member and founder of the Pico Youth & Family Center, Oscar de la Torre, as well as NASA astronaut and Santa Monica native Randy Bresnik.
Of de la Torre, Tel said, “He’s been a regular since he was a kid.”
He also said that Bresnik’s father has been taking him since he was a child.
“Sometimes we get up to three generations,” he added.
The shop is centered on a tone of friendliness, which stems from the tightly knit community of Santa Monica that Tel has come to love — although he didn’t immediately.
Tel is from Albuquerque, NM, originally and moved out here in 1962.
“When I first came I was ready to go in a month. Now I love it,” he said.
He didn’t venture to Santa Monica to cut hair at first, but to do construction work with his uncle and brother.
Although, working at a barbershop wasn’t totally random.
“I had a couple of cousins in Albuquerque who were barbers,” Tel said.
On occasion he would help them out, putting the beginnings of his career path into place unbeknownst to himself.
“When I came here I was working at an office furniture store,” he said. Even though he wasn’t always focused on barbering, he said, “I enjoy working with my hands.”
When he finally began working at the barbershop, he was working under Charles Ronay, who had opened the shop back in 1955.
“We worked together for a long time,” said Tel. “I worked for him from ‘62 until ‘74, and then he worked for me for 10 to 11 years part-time, on and off.”
He recalls that back then, the city of Santa Monica was a different place.
“When I first came here there was no freeway,” he said, pointing out the window toward the I-10 Freeway entrance which is a couple of blocks away.
He said that the quickest way to Los Angeles used to be Olympic Boulevard all the way down. He laments the less hectic pace that the city is now host to, and especially points out the parking problems.
Although the city was less crowded then, he said, “We used to stay busy, just me and the other barber.”
But they weren’t the only ones staying busy at that time.
“There used to be about 10 barber shops just in this area here. But when long hair came into the picture, the other shops started closing.”