Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress A Chilliwack barber is paying it forward before he retires.

Retiring Chilliwack barber passes on the torch to refugee

Barber shop will carry on in Chilliwack with beautiful act of symmetry, compassion and continuity

Joe Majercsak of Chilliwack is ready to put away his barber scissors after 40 years.

He is passing on the torch in a beautiful act of symmetry, kindness and continuity.

Majercsak decided to gift the barber shop Hair Razors to a local Syrian refugee who arrived in Chilliwack a little more than a year ago.

The new barber, Hane Al Hashesh, 39, who he hand-picked, takes over on Thursday, June 15.

Majercsak chatted with The Progress last week, sharing what it means to be paying it all forward in this way.

“Hane has five kids. I thought to myself he really needs a hand up,” Majercsak said. Wednesday was his last day of cutting hair from the tiny space tucked away on Vedder Road.

He and his wife are getting ready to move to Alberta to be closer to the kids and grandkids.

He says he knows his shop will be in good hands.

“Immigrants and refugees work extra hard,” he said with a little glint in his eye.

Barbering is in his blood. He comes by it honestly.

Majercsak’s father was a barber for 56 years, working from a chair on the old military base in Chilliwack. His twin brother works as a barber, too.

“My father arrived in 1957 with only $5 in his pocket. He was a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution,” said Majercsak.

He made Chilliwack his home, cutting hair here for decades.

“He did very well. He came here with nothing and made something of himself,” he said with obvious pride.

There is no transaction, no sale for the shop.

Majercsak shows the final schedule of appointments, hand-written in pencil for his last week of barbering in Chilliwack.

“It’s been a good 40-year run. I’m going to miss it, and my customers.”

He’s gotten to know so many over the years.

“I can’t force them to keep coming, of course. But I can give them an option.”

One of his long-running regular clients is Keith Nixon.

“I’ve been coming to see Joe for 10 years,” he said. “I get the best haircut I’ve ever got, and he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s one of the those traditional barbers. When you’re in his chair, you’re his number one concern.”

Another regular in the chair is Nixon’s neighbour, Bill Ferguson.

“I have had good barbers and interesting barbers. But in terms of technique, there is no one more meticulous,” said Ferguson.

His neighbour recommended Majercsak about 12 years ago, and he’s been booking with Joe ever since.

“It’s a shame they closed the barber schools. Damned if I want to go to a hairdresser. Barbers are a dying breed.”

They’re both a little sad to see Joe go this week, but looking forward the future, with Hane at the helm.

Hane Al Hashesh, 39, tells The Progress he is honoured to be given the opportunity to take over.

“I don’t know why he trusts me, but he does.”

He and his wife, Sawsan, have settled in Chilliwack, with five children aged 2 to 12, with the help of some local church members. They’ve already started putting away savings for the kids’ educations.

With 13 years of barber experience in Syria and Jordan, he’s bringing sharp skills to Chilliwack.

In return he expressed his deep appreciation for that instinctive trust Majercsak has placed in him already.

“I will try to do my best and to keep the same routines with all the regular clients,” Alhashesh said.

“I’m so glad. This is my future.”