By Mike Kinney
When he was a child, Drew DeGuzman said his parents couldn’t always afford to get his hair cut.
“So, when I got a little older into my teens, I bought a cheap pair of clippers and started cutting my own hair and found out I had a real gift for it,” said DeGuzman, an Antioch native and 2004 graduate of De La Salle High School in Concord.
DeGuzman started cutting his classmates’ hair, and also his Dad’s and brother’s. He cut hair on the weekends, and it was clear to him that this wasn’t just a hobby, but a career.
In December 2020, DeGuzman, now 36 years old, alongside Richmond native Christian Chavez, 31, opened the Empire Barber Shop at 3700 San Pablo Ave. in Hercules. The pair had previously worked since 2015 at the Empire location inside the Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord before launching the Hercules site. The swift popularity of Empire’s new location in West County is connected to a longtime passion for craft.
“It feels really good to know that the community has embraced us and they see the value that we bring,” DeGuzman said. “It feels great to see hard work pay off.”
Hard work at a young age is how Chavez found his calling. At that time he’d get his haircuts at Adriana’s Beauty Salon in San Pablo, “right next to McDonald’s,” he said.
Chavez attended Leadership Public Schools in Richmond, which provided students a week where they could intern at a business. Adriana’s Beauty Salon hired him on as an intern to take on walk-ins. Once he got a hold of his own clippers, he started providing haircuts to his family.
“I just saw the clippers waving at me all the time,” he said. “I knew my calling was to become a professional barber and stylist.”
Empire specializes in modern men’s grooming and precision haircutting and styling. The shop additionally “stays true to our foundation in traditional barbering with an emphasis on classic hot towel shaves and service,” according to DeGuzman.
The key to balancing a diversity of services with top-notch craft is ongoing education, he added.
“We have created a culture here where we want to continue to learn and seek new techniques and learn how to execute these evolving styles,” he said.
DeGuzman added, “We value professionalism and want the public to really feel welcome and respected when entering our shops.”
It’s not all work, no play for DeGuzman and Chavez.
“We are family guys,” DeGuzman said. “So we really enjoy spending time with our family and friends.”From taking advantage of the hiking trails on the waterfront, movies at the park, sporting events, and exploring all the awesome food spots our community has to offer.”
The pair also love to shop and eat locally, including at the nearby Target and Trader Joe’s, Pear Street Bistro, Leila by the Bay, Powder Keg, and “of course our neighbors at Sharetea and Kinders,” said DeGuzman.
Empire Barber Shop opens Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact (510) 243-5396.