Delia Heredia’s barbershop: A cultural cut above
by Alejandra Aguilar
photography by Michelle Leon
She stands tall, thin with dark, voluminous hair that embraces her pretty, made up face. Mirrors hug the four walls, exposing every angle of the salon. Pieces of hair fall on her glossy, high-heeled boots as she meticulously cuts her client’s hair. She operates like a surgeon and communicates like a motivational speaker. She also smiles like it’s a hobby. She steps behind the counter for a second and someone walks into Delia’s Barbershop. “Is she here?” he says. She pops back up. “Yes. Yes I am.”
Delia Heredia gives her client a big smile and he gives one back to her. Before she can count to five, they are in a deep conversation. They act like old pals; they act like it is an everyday thing.
Delia’s Barbershop is a tiny store located on Third Street, just west of D Street, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in excellent customer service and hair services. For 15 years, Delia, the owner, has walked into her barbershop at 7 a.m. with satisfaction. She has opened the doors to find that the smell of her wooden floors and cabinets still fill her second home with a therapeutic scent, and the characters living in the vintage pictures hanging on the walls are still happy to greet her after all those years, but she still remembers it took every drop of passion to be able to call Delia’s Barbershop her store.
Delia’s early life
Delia was born in Culiacan, Mexico, to a large family. She was lucky number seven of 11 children. For as long as she can remember, she wanted to succeed in life. At age 16, she left her native town to move to Tijuana, Mexico, where she worked as a teller at a bank to pay for cosmetology school. “It was easy for me to work there,” Delia says. “I’ve always loved people, and I interacted with a lot of people.” She worked there for eight years.
She grew up on a ranch, which was also the family business. They were involved with agriculture and animals. But slowly, her family started moving to the United States, which pushed her to want to move, too. Like many immigrants in search of the “American Dream,” she immigrated to the United States 26 years ago. Eventually, she received her cosmetology license and worked in different salons in Ontario and Pomona until she saw what is now Delia’s Barbershop, and fell in love. “I had this coworker who always motivated me to open up my own business because at the salons I worked at, I was always working hard; I worked as if it was my own business,” she says.
Lucky number seven believes she got lucky when she found a nice store in a nice town but admits it takes more than luck. She says hard work, honesty and excellent customer service are the reasons for her success. “[My staff and I] have always been honest and friendly, and you have to be very patient, but if you do something with love and faith, you can accomplish it. Also, people open businesses and think they will magically work. No. You have to put time into it. ” At times, Delia works 75 hours a week and has been at the barbershop at 7 a.m. for the last 15 years to open up the doors to her business.
“I’m very humble and don’t like to talk a lot of myself. I think actions speak louder than words, but I was able to raise my daughters, keep them involved in school and away from drugs, buy my own house and with the help of no one,” she says.
Delia says the 75 hours she works do not feel like work because she works with people who are like her family. She has four employees who have worked for her for years. Joaquin Solis, who has worked for Delia for 13 years, says the barbershop was the perfect place for him. “This barbershop is like being in family,” he says. “We know each other and we respect each other. The majority of our clients are very nice people. I used to work in Pomona, where the people were very rude. Once, I had a teacher tell me that I had to find a career I liked but that also paid. I did that and it’s amazing. He believes the barbershop is located in the perfect spot because they get a lot of students. They constantly get new clients with the incoming freshmen.
Family comes first
Besides having a full-time job at her barbershop, Delia held another full-time job: motherhood. “I used to live in small apartments, and now, I have my own house and I did all of this while I was a single mother. You can do anything you want if you really want it. If you don’t, it won’t happen.”
Delia values hard work, education and perseverance and has made sure to pass those values to her daughters. One of her daughters is a graduate at the University of La Verne and, the other two attend other colleges. “Despite how busy she always was, she managed to get us involved in school and sports. She would find us a ride or get someone to pick us up. If she had to work, she would show up for half of a game and go back to work,” Melina Bisbardis, Delia’s daughter, says. “I remember going to the barbershop when I was younger. She would make my sisters and I sweep hair when we didn’t want to. We couldn’t just sit around. She would have us do something, and if we wanted something, she would make us earn it, even if it was just a dollar.” Delia even puts her free time to work. Melina remembers being in middle school when her mom opened up the barbershop. “Everyone in school knew my mom and would get haircuts with her. I would always get to meet teachers, professors and interesting new people,” she says.
Enough love to go around
For Melina, it’s no surprise that her mom is also involved in various organizations in the community. On top of running a business and being a single parent, Delia participates in her community church’s activities, participates in local events like the La Verne Wine Walk and is secretary and treasurer of the Old Town La Verne Business Improvement District Advisory Board, where she, along with other board members, are in charge of deciding what kind of events should be put on in La Verne, like the Farmer’s Market. “I do this because the community loves it, and I love the community. I also love to be informed so I can help and communicate that with my clients,” Delia says. In addition, Delia travels to people who are not able to leave their homes due to disabilities and gives them haircuts. She believes strongly in being compassionate and kind to others.
Carrie Coolbaugh, one of Delia’s loyal clients, has been cutting her hair at Delia’s for 15 years. “I come here because Delia is always here,” she says. “At my age, I don’t want to explain what I want, and I don’t want to change my style. There’s no drama here, and most importantly Delia understands ‘abrazos.’ I always get a hug and a greeting when I come. You don’t get a lot of that around here.”
Delia offers haircuts, shampooing and conditioning, styling, hair coloring, beard trimming and permanents. She does everything that other salons offer, but she offers warmth and a level of expertise that is hard for people to resist. Aracely Pinto, the newbie of the barbershop and former owner of her own salon, can already distinguish her from other hairdressers. “Delia is a person who is well prepared. She has a lot of knowledge on how to treat people and she’s such a positive person. Not only that, but the people here make me feel like I belong. It might just be a cut, but it’s satisfying to help people feel good about themselves.”
As Delia works her magic, she chats and laughs with her employees. They all share the work and she never tells them what to do; it is a team effort even though she is the boss. Along with Joaquin and Aracely, Maribel Rodriguez and Sofia Ruiz complete the team. “I love the people that work for me. I love them like family. We talk about so many different things, because we’re all so different too,” Delia says.
With that, the final locks of love, hard work and perseverance fall on her glossy high-heeled boots. She finishes her long conversation and puts her scissors down. The sound of the broom dancing back and forth fills the room. She gives her client one of her famous “abrazos.” “See you in 6 months?” “No. More like three.” She smiles one of her luminous smiles and her next client is waiting for her – waiting for her to begin her magic.