Watching Phillip “Phil” Razo cut hair is like watching an artist paint on a master canvas. With care and precision, each work comes out a masterpiece. And Phil’s skill in his barber shop, Phillip’s Barber Shop, easily conveys his 51 1/2 years of experience.
Razo is a Porterville native who was born and raised in the city. He even attended Porterville High School, before heading up north to San Jose.
“I was cutting hair in high school,” said Razo. “I would cut my friends hair. I took some welding classes in high school, so if I wasn’t a barber I’d probably be a welder.”
Razo graduated from The Moler Barber College in San Jose in December of 1967, and has been dedicated to cutting hair ever since. Some of Razo’s clients have been with him for more than 40 years.
Razo takes pride in his military service, and was excited to talk about his time in the Army. He served during the Vietnam War between 1969 and 1970. He proudly displays his military banner on the light post outside of his barber shop. He was drafted into the Army with his friend, Paul Gonzales, but the two were spilt up once in Vietnam. After finishing his stint at war, Razo was pleased to accidentally meet up with Gonzales at the old Starlite Night Club in Porterville, happily exchanging “We made it back!” with each other. Razo wrote a piece about his and Gonzales’ service that was featured in The Recorder’s special Veterans section in November of 2018.
“I started off in San Jose with my brother who was a barber over there,” said Razo. “After I got drafted, I went back to work with him again. Then I decided to come back home to Porterville.”
Razo’s shop houses two old school, all white barber chairs, but he works alone in his shop. He said he has had other barbers work in the shop with him, but they have all moved on and he remains a solo barber in the shop at 117 N. Main Street, the same shop he has been in for the past 32 years.
When asked what was next for the business, Razo wasn’t absolutely certain. He did say he has sold the building to a cement contractor, but doesn’t know what the new owner will do with the building when he’s gone.
Today is supposed to be Razo’s last day before he heads off into the leisurely life of retirement. He said he will not be cutting hair after he retires, and even joked he doesn’t even know who will cut his hair because he has always done it in the shop. All of the pictures of his family and decorations on the wall are slowly coming down, signaling an end to over half a century of service.
Razo was asked what his favorite memory was, and surprisingly, it wasn’t barber or hair related at all.
“When I got married,” said Razo with a smile. “We just celebrated 40 years this year.”
Razo has been happily married to his wife Teresa since January 20, 1979, a date he remembers so vividly. Not only was it his wedding weekend, it was also the weekend of the Super Bowl VIII. Together, they have three children, all of whom are now grown and have moved out of the area.
Before he’s fully settled into retirement, Razo will be sticking around his hometown for a little bit.
“I plan to hang around town for a while,” said Razo. “Until my wife and I move to be closer to our kids down south.”
After more than 50 years of cutting hair, Razo will begin a whole new chapter in life, one that’s spent with his family and is haircut free.