SAN JOSE, Calif. - A barber from the South Bay, who served during the Vietnam War and gave free haircuts at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto, needs help starting his business back up.
Like so many small business owners, Robert Guidry was hit hard by the pandemic so he pivoted and is taking his skills and barber shop on wheels.
"It’s an art to me," said Guidry. "I feel like when I’m cutting hair it’s not like having a job."
It was at the age of 13, Guidry fell in love with cutting hair, first his brother and then others. It wasn’t until he served in the Marines during the Vietnam War did he realize even more the importance of a good cut.
After the Marines, the Louisiana native attended the San Jose Barber College. He opened what he believes is the first multicultural barber shop in San Jose.
He also volunteered his time as a barber at the Veterans Administration in Palo Alto.
"I wanted to give back," said Guidry. "I saw it as helping out another veteran."
Then in 2008, the recession hit. Guidry lost everything. He ultimately got housing through the homeless veterans reintegration program.
He then worked at another barber shop. In 2020, the pandemic hit.
"The shop closed because of the pandemic so I decided to make a slight trajectory and I started planning on a mobile barber shop," said Guidry.
Guidry bought a van and customized it to go to directly to his clients. It’s wheelchair and walker accessible. Getting it off the ground though hasn't been easy.
"I lost loyal clientele that I had for decades," said Guidry.
Nonprofits that partner with small business owners launched a Go Fund Me to help Guidry with extra capital,
"Who doesn’t want to help Robert?" said Crystal Rasmussen of Working Solutions. "I think Robert is someone we are all rooting for."
A barber for 30 years, Robert is now 71 and more determined than ever to be successful and continue doing what he loves.
"There’s a barber in New York who is still cutting hair at the age of 109," said Guidry. "I think I love barbering as much as he."
Guidry is getting help from a veterans recovery program. He said he wants to be successful enough so another veteran can take his spot.
If you’d like to help, here’s a link to his GoFundMe.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.