Golden Crown Barbershop is located in Laguna Nigel, CA and it’s fearless leader; Cory Danger is the subject of today’s Q&A. Over the years I’ve had a few interactions with Mr. Danger (who looks quite royal in the first image below), and if I was forced to use one word to describe him it would have to be jolly. He always seems to have a smile on his face. There is even something happy about the way he walks, which all makes sense after hearing what he had to say. I’m a huge fan of his answers because they really come from him and they are all very positive as well as informative. A lot of people are afraid to be outwardly honest and positive in settings such as a barbershop, so this stuff is cool to hear.
You can follow Mr. Danger on Instagram @goldencrowncory and the shop at @goldencrownbarbershop. Or at their website www.goldencrownbarbershop.com.
“I try and give my guys a strong sense of self worth and ask them to conduct themselves appropriately. It’s very much a mutual respect.”
1) Where are you from and what did you do before becoming a barber?
I live in South Orange County California. Been here most my life. Before I was a barber I bounced around jobs. I’ve always worked since I was about 13. My mom started her insurance business in our home and I was her shipping department. I remember when I was 15 I asked for a phone in my room and the next day there was a fax machine and a box of fax paper rolls. I had to deliver her faxes whenever they came in and couldn’t use the phone during business hours. So it was all mine after 5 and weekends!
How do you think that experience translated into what you do now?
Its created a priceless value on work. It doesn’t matter how small or large the work load is I do something everyday. It’s like a steam powered engine, the fire must always be burning to keep the train moving.
2) Your shop(s) have a unique feel. Can you talk about the thought process of building them and why/how you run them the way you do?
I worked in a few different shops before opening my own, 5 to be exact. I built the stations with every comfort I ever wanted. I believe today it’s known as ergonomic. The counter is 42” high so I don’t have to bend to get my tools. Each station has a sink, lather machine, paper towels, trash can, register, air hose and plenty of power. We share a hot towel cabi. That was the center of my universe, the rest is just to look cool. More for the customers to have something to look at then me. As far as the way I run my shops I consciously made the decision to take everything I didn’t like about people I worked for and do the opposite. I also put a lot of value on a barber being an independent contractor. I try and give my guys a strong sense of self worth and ask them to conduct themselves appropriately. It’s very much a mutual respect.
3) As the owner of 2 (soon to be 3) shops, you’re the “boss” of a lot of barbers. Can you talk about what that’s like and how you handle all the different personalities while still keeping the culture the way you want it to be?
I lean heavy on that independent contractor ideal that I mentioned. I have a set of standards I expect and within those parameters you’re free to be whoever you want. My crew has helped me develop a very good system of self regulating. Being a walk in only shop if one barber isn’t in sync with the rest it can damage the whole operation. I’ve got a couple of guys that are managers and do a good job putting out fires before they catch my attention. I hate to be cliché saying we’re a family but we are a very bonded group of guys and our loyalty to the shop is greater then an individual. I’m only the “Boss” when I absolutely have to be.
4) What is the thing that sticks out to you that separates good barbers from great barbers?
Customer service. We are in the service industry and that should be the first thing every barber learns. Leave your shit at the door, it’s all about the person in the chair, not you.
5) What’s going through your head as you’re about to open the 3rd shop?
Pure excitement. Each time I open a shop I leave the previous one and work full time at the new one. I get to experience being a new shop owner again while simultaneously being a seasoned shop owner.
What are the biggest roadblocks or hassles with opening a new shop?
At this moment it’s the city and permits. Every city has different rules and regs and if you miss one box that you need to check off the form it could push the whole build out back 2 weeks. Lots of I’s to be crossed and T’s to be dotted.
6) When you stop and think about being a barber, what makes you feel the best?
The immediate connection I have with generations before me. I can meet a 75 year old barber and within minutes share stories, frustrations, proud moments or whatever it is and be connected. A brother in arms if you will.
One of the most obvious differences between the old timers and your class is first impressions.Most guys now are covered in tattoos, so I’m wondering how the old timers normally react when you introduce yourself as a barber?
When I was younger it was definitely met with a guarded response. It almost seemed to start as an interview of sorts more then a conversation until I answered enough questions correctly. I’ve been a licensed barber for 12 years now, there’s no more vetting process. I can definitely say I’m guilty of carrying on that tradition of an interview introduction as well though.
7) What do you get into outside of the shop? Hobbies, obsessions, collections, etc.
I’m a single dad and I have a two boys that take all my attention when not working. I think now is a good time to say I don’t just cut hair and own barber shops either. I co-produce the MusInk Tattoo Convention & Music Festival here in Orange County as well as have several festivals I provide pop-up barber shops at. I’ve recently started an in house barber program for some action sports companies in the area as well. What I’m saying is my hobby and obsession is barbering and applying it to as many different avenues as possible. As far as collections go I collect old barber equipment and good times.
I’m sorry, did you say that you collect good times?
Hell yeah man! I’m all about making memories and sharing experiences with friends and family. Forget a bucket list it should be a to do list.
8) Where do you find inspiration within/outside the barber industry?
Entrepreneurs, rags to riches stories, the struggle! I love to learn about personal growth. I’m a biography fiend. Books, documentaries, podcasts, anything really. Real life happenings you know.
Within my world of barbering I don’t find inspiration, I find more comfort. I like the history of the trade. I used to joke that the last major breakthrough in barbering is when our tools became electric.
Are there a couple you’d really recommend?
Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table is an awesome documentary about a legendary restaurateur and New Orleans Icon. Petty: The Biography is the last book I read about Tom Petty and his life. Mike Rowe has a podcast called The Way I heard it. He does incredible 10 - 15 minute stories about all types of people through out history and reveals who it is at the very end. I think he's up to 100 episodes now, my kids and I like to listen to them while we're driving.
9) Advice for someone trying to open their owns shop?
Don’t. Unless your city doesn’t have a good barber shop. If it has a couple shops already go to the one you can devote yourself too. That has a crew of guys you can celebrate and commiserate with. I’m guilty of stepping on toes with my shops but I’ve also had my toes stepped on a lot! Thankfully where I am it’s so over populated everyone can eat.
10) Random thoughts on what you do….
Here’s some advice for anyone that’s been licensed for 5 years or less;
Barbering has never been more popular and profitable then it is right now. Find an old guy and listen to what he has to say. Don’t fuck this up for the rest of us!
11) What is your biggest career/life failure that has in turn caused you to change in a positive way?
I've had failures in life and career but they've never been negative. Positivity is a mind set that takes constant practice and application. For example, I had a barber supply and men's grooming shop for almost 3 years that I closed down. It was a conscience and calculated closure that taught me more then I could have ever imagined. I lost money, owed money, had to shut down a website, liquidate fixtures and product fast and way below what I paid for it. Then I had to explain to customers and friends and family over the next year why I closed it, constantly talking about my "failure." I chose to see the positive through the whole process. I gained new business experiences and lessons that the barber shop could never provide. Now I can take that knowledge and apply it to the barber shop and other business opportunities that come up. Constant practice and application.
Great stuff, Mr. Danger. Thank you.
5 more days until the release party and it's shaping up to be a great one. The power of social media has really helped to spread the word, and the response has been humbling. Barbers from all over the country are flying in to attend which is cool on a lot of levels. Mostly because I'm excited for all of them to meet for the first time, while drinking beer and talking about the profession that they love. If you're around, come on down to Pig Barber in Costa Mesa. We're gonna have a blast and there will be a lot of treats being raffled off from Uppercut Deluxe, Irving Barber Co, Andis Clippers, and cold brew will be flowing courtesy of House Beer.
Last month I watched an on-line talk given by a photographer that I very much respect. He dished out a lot of great information, and briefly mentioned something about another photographer that he very much respected. The remark was about a book that photographer was about to publish, and the speaker said "I already know what it looks like". He hadn't seen the book, or any of the images, but was referring to the fact that the photographer was very predictable. And that stuck with me. He also didn't mean any disrespect at all, was just stating a fact. After thinking about it for a while, I realized how important it is to constantly be charging ahead in different directions. That's something I've always believed, but it was cool to hear from his perspective. As a photographer, you'll always have your "bread and butter", but it's boring to rest on that. Branch out and try new things. Develop portfolios in areas that your audience is expecting. Challenge yourself even if it means failing miserably for a while. In the long term, I believe that's the only way to make it.
Last month I did another cross-country trip from San Diego to as far as Plymouth, Massachusetts. Time on the road was shorter than I initially planned for, but it's always great. Shot a lot of images that are probably a lot different my norm, and people might not connect with them right away, but whatever. Some of them are certainly winners. I enjoy looking at them, and can see this stuff developing into a much larger portfolio. My main objective on this trip was to wrap up shooting on the barbershop project. So all of this "America" stuff was on the side, but I love it, and am always eager for more.
My America gallery of images is the one that gets the least attention and interest from people/clients. Which I find strange because sometimes I think it's my best stuff? Either way it's something I've been shooting for a long time, and will continue shooting forever. Lately I've been getting a lot of images request from clients for other bodies of work, which is always a gift because it forces you to go back through old hard drives, causing me to look at images I haven't seen in a long time. And whatever it is about time, that factor has made turned me on to images that I thought were worthless in the past. That might be a problem, but then again it might just be part of the process. Regardless, I'm happy to have stumbled upon these images that have been during road trips from as far back as 2011, and as recently as a few months ago. Can't wait to get back out on the road.
It's only been a year+ since this trip and I'm finally getting around to posting about it. Have been back several times since. Wonder how many other trips I have sitting on my hard drive? Jackson Hole is top notch. Really top notch. The more I go back, the better it is, and the amount of time we actually spend in town is less and less. Grand Teton National Park and everything else that surrounds town is phenomenal. The hiking, camping, fishing, etc, is so good. And on this particular trip we did all of that. Up the middle Teton to be exact. A very different type of backcountry climbing than I'm used to. So much of it is just huge boulder fields. Which means that you spend a lot of time going from rock to rock, or scrambling. Not my favorite style of hiking, but what an incredible trip. The Tetons have to be the most picturesque range in the USA. The way they rise up from the the valley floor is so dramatic. They look so massive from afar, and even bigger when you're right up close. Not sure how we got so lucky, but it was perfectly sunny at the summit without an ounce of wind. That can't happen too often? As I'm writing this it's snowing in Jackson Hole, and I can't wait to get back up there. The snowboarding there is so good. You'd have to put it up there as some of the best in the country, especially when you really get to know the mountain. This is the worst thing I've written in a while. Sorry.
During my time on the road one thing I've always got my eye out for is hoops. I don't really see an end to this project. It will probably be something I continue to shoot for the rest of my life. That being said, it's getting harder and harder to find hoops that I actually like. Over the past 4+ years, I've come across some amazing hoop scenes, which means the bar is now set pretty high. So unless I find something at least as good or better than the previous ones, then I'm not shooting it. These three are (in order) from Nebraska, Colorado, and India.
The result of 7,038 American miles this past month. Love this country.
More small town America, where life works a little differently.
My truck is just hitting 8 months old, and she's already got 30,000+ miles on it. That's a solid 8 months. This most recent (8,519 mile) road trip was memorable for a lot of reasons, just like all the others. I love looking through the images, and this is the quickest I've ever posted after a trip. But it's not usually until many months down the line, that I realize what was the most enjoyable. And on the flip side, what I fucked up on. There are always a few images that make me wish I had kept shooting at that particular location. Sometimes you can't though because it's unsafe, too dark, or whatever. So learning to except it, is a must. One thing I definitely learned is the necessity of keeping a journal. After driving 8k+ miles, it's real easy to forget locations and other important details about the images you make. Those details will, at some point down the line, become very important. These images aren't supposed to be beautiful in the traditional sense. I don't care at all about that. They are supposed to accurately show the smaller places of our country that most people never see. Some days I think this is my favorite type of shooting. And some days I think the images are dog shit. Either way, I can't wait to get back on the road.
Recently finished up another road trip across America with Mojo. Started in San Diego, went all the way to Cape Cod, then back to San Diego. 8,519 miles total. Given that I haven't posted most images from last year, this post might be out of line, but whatever. The trip was a great time, and something that is always a great learning experience. America is a huge place, so it can be difficult to figure out where to focus your time and energy photographically. It would be real easy to shoot everything that interests you, but then you would never get across the country. Seems like every time I get to the opposite coast, my feelings are that I didn't shoot enough, and that what I did get is shit. Then after a certain amount of time digesting the images, I turn out to be real happy with most of them. Which has proven to be a huge part of the process. Thus the reason it takes me half a year to even post anything. Much more to come from this trip. And I promise it won't take 6 months.
This is sort of an extension on another post I made a while back about a road trip from last year. Which started in San Diego, then went all the way up the coast, into Canada (Banff), then down through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and finally back to San Diego. Hood River, Oregon was definitely a notable stop along the way. It's known as the kite surfing and wind surfing capital of the world. We did neither of those things, but it doesn't matter. Hood River has a lot more to offer. Great camping, hiking, food, and beer. Hard to complain about a place that's bookended by Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier. The views are top notch. And we were lucky enough to be there on a few days where the visibility was close to perfect.
Whether you shop there or not, you know J.C. Penney. It's an America staple that can be found anywhere you go, from the biggest of cities to the smallest of towns. One thing you probably never think of though, is where it all began. I certainly never did. And definitely didn't expect to stumble up it's "mother store" while traveling through Kemmerer, Wyoming. Cool think about how far it's come from this little town in 1902.
I just got back from a month long coast to coast road trip (8,027 miles). Obviously it was a great time. I was lucky to see a lot of friends/family, as well as some new parts of the country that I haven't previously seen. For a while now I've been saying that I'm pathetically behind on blog updates. The amount of unpublished material I have is going back about a year now. So one of my New Years resolutions should be to take care of that. After all, if they aren't published anywhere, then they don't really exist? Stay tuned.
It's been really rewarding to see the reach that my book has had. When I started this thing over three years ago, I hoped for exactly these kind of results. It's been written about in a number of places including CBS News, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Gaurdian, Photo District News, and Shutterbug (to name a few). Which I'm very proud of, but not as proud of the fact that people have purchased the book all over the USA and in 9 foreign countries. Very humbling. If you want to check it out, or pick up a copy for yourself, go to barbershopsofamerica.com
On Wednesday I started another cross-country road trip with Mojo (dog). They are always an incredible experience, with an almost therapeutic effect. There aren't any parts of the country that I don't enjoy visiting, and Arizona is no exception. The light in AZ is just phenomenal. Rivaled only by New Mexico. I guess it's all that flat wide open space. The late day light just rakes across everything. I found this scene in Joseph City. Really awesome looking clouds until you realize it's smoke from the Cholla Power Plant.