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This punk barbershop that focuses on mental health is celebrating its move to Gig Harbor

Peninsula Gateway - 11/14/2023

Nov. 14—Visitors to Gig Harbor's new Black Cat Barbershop & Salon will find a place to get a fresh cut, and also a safe place for men to connect.

The barbershop had a soft opening a few months ago at 6745 Kimball Dr. It will have its grand opening Nov. 18.

The space was formerly a State Farm office.

Some might recognize the barbershop's name. It used to be located in Purdy, but after experiencing flooding from last year's King Tide and a need for more room, they moved.

They are open six days a week, closed on Sundays. Stylists work their own schedules, but visitors will find someone there between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Appointments are preferred and can be made online at blackcatbarber.com. Walk-ins are for those willing to try their luck, owner Stewart Wentworth, 30, told the Gateway.

Black Cat in Purdy was a 350-square-foot shop. Black Cat in Gig Harbor is almost 1,100 square feet.

Wentworth said he loves being on Kimball Drive because it's lined by old trees.

They've got four chairs and a fifth is coming soon, Wentworth said.

Black Cat stylists specialize in men's grooming and traditional barbering services, short haircuts, straight razor shaves and beard trims. They also have stylists who specialize in vivid color and balayage.

"We definitely have a mixed group of people that come in," he said. "There are all kinds of clients that are getting all kinds of things."

With more space Wentworth is working to build a larger team of stylists, so anyone — regardless of what kind of hair they have — can be taken care of at Black Cat.

The old spot was strictly a barbershop, but now that they've added "and salon" to the name, Wentworth is expanding the business.

"I've really grown to love the connection that I make with people and the day to day experience," Wentworth said. "You're taking care of them for like an hour, once every four to six weeks. You really get to know them and sometimes even their family."

A barbershop focused on mental health

Wentworth feels Black Cat can serve the community in a way other than haircuts.

"Especially with a lot of our clients being male, men's mental health is obviously a very prevalent issue," he said. "There's not many neutral and safe outlets aside from actually going to counseling or therapy."

In 2021, Black Cat held a fundraiser to bring mental health support training to barbers and hairdressers in the area.

Ten stylists in the Puget Sound took the class.

Wentworth has found a lot of people naturally have an inclination to share things while in the chair.

"That happens if you put yourself out there as a safe person to talk with, no judgments," Wentworth said. "My work behind the chair is really trying to care for people in a deeper way."

Cameron Vance, a client of Wentworth, has been coming to him for haircuts for a few years now.

When searching for a new barber, Vance wanted someone he could depend on, but also sit, chat and connect with, he told the Gateway.

"I really want someone that can always be there for me and give me a haircut," he said. "... It's like catching up with an old friend."

Wentworth said his focus is to create a space that is safe, welcoming and judgment free for everyone.

"When someone sits in my chair they might be having the best day of their life or the worst day of their life," Wentworth said. ".... to be able to show and be present for them, when they're spending time in my chair, is such a privilege."

How the Black Cat got its name

The name, Black Cat, somewhat represents Wentworth's past.

He grew up in Reno, Nevada, in the punk scene. He started hanging out in tattoo shops as a teenager, and he said panthers are in a lot of American traditional tattooing.

"I've also been told I'm a little weird or an oddball, and black cats kind of share that feeling," he said. "... We do hair for the black sheep and the jazz cat."

The shop has multiple black cat decorations inside, including some that are hiding.

Wentworth also spent a lot of time in barbershops as a teenager, while also in a punk band.

"I was really into the punk music scene, expressing myself with the way I dressed and what I did with my hair," he told the Gateway.

Wentworth, his band and friends all went to get their haircuts at the same barbershop, opened by a friend in another band.

He moved to Seattle in 2013. Shortly after a barbershop opened down the street from him.

"I really found a home there," he said. "I enjoyed spending time there and started to consider if this was something I'd like to pursue as a business of my own."

He said he'd always been artistic and it seemed like a good path for him. Wentworth decided to go to hair school. He graduated from the Evergreen Beauty College in Bellevue in 2016.

After graduating he took about a year off to travel with a girlfriend who was going to school in the Czech Republic. The two are now married.

After returning from abroad he worked in a Seattle barbershop. Then the couple moved to Gig Harbor in 2018. For a period of time he worked out of a Bremerton barbershop.

Then during the pandemic shops closed down.

Wentworth and his wife were expecting their first child when a 40-year-old barbershop went up for sale in the Purdy area.

The space was Gentlemen Jim's for 32 years and Peninsula Barbershop for five years. Wentworth used the space to start the Black Cat.

Wentworth said many of their Purdy clients make the drive over to the new spot in Gig Harbor, and they've also seen a lot of new faces.

On Nov. 18 visitors can celebrate Black Cat's three year anniversary of being in business and the grand opening of its Gig Harbor location.

Starting at 5 p.m. the party is open house style. They'll have live music, a photobooth, and raffle prizes.

One of the raffle prize packages is a self-care package, Wentworth said.

This story was originally published November 14, 2023, 5:00 AM.

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(c)2023 The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, Wash.)

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