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Meet Bill Megalos of Hand To Hand Barbers in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bill Megalos.

Bill, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started working with Hand to Hand 20 years ago and nearly 15 years ago saw the opportunity to add more service by offering haircuts. It was an opportunity to interact on a deeper level with the homeless community we were feeding. I had no prior barbering experience, so it was quite scary, but everybody looked better, felt better and was so appreciative. Right from the start, the shop was popular and people would hang out and chat and joke even after they got their haircut. People pass through, but I have customers whose hair I have been cutting for 15 years.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The appreciation and goodwill has been there from the start, but there have been some issues along the way. We started out on the lawn in front of Santa Monica City Hall, but the city kicked us out of there. Then we were at the old bus depot for a few years, then again we were moved and for the past five years, we have been at OPCC off the freeway. In the beginning, we were allowed to stay as long as we liked and there was no pressure. Now the challenge is to give great haircuts, make the customer feel loved and do it quickly without having them feel they are being rushed.

Personally, my challenge has always been to give a great haircut, while showing the utmost respect to each customer, even if they might have mental, anger or hygiene issues. The most important lesson is to make sure you understand what the person wants. Words have entirely different meanings to different people; a fade is not the same thing to two people, short doesn’t necessarily mean short. Because appearance is so important, especially on the street, the last thing I want to do is not give someone what they want. So it’s necessary to ask and re-ask to make sure we are both on the same page.

Hand To Hand Barbers – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
There is saying about the Grateful Dead: It’s not that they are the best at what they do, they are the ONLY one doing what they do. I feel we are pretty much the same, we offer great haircuts for free, but most importantly, we offer a safe place for our clients to hang out and feel the connection to society, both the one they left behind or that has abandoned them and to the street society they find themselves in.

We take great satisfaction knowing that our clients look better, feel better and have a better day after being with us. We make their life better and easier. We have developed true friendships with our clients and every week when we get together it’s like a party or a reunion.

Who else deserves credit – have you had mentors, supporters, cheerleaders, advocates, clients or teammates that have played a big role in your success or the success of the business? If so – who are they and what role did they plan / how did they help.
Debbie Baxter founded Hand to Hand and is the biggest angel I have met. Pat Lee and her team run H2H now and have been totally supportive of us. Liza Zimring and Jessica Liparoto are our other barbers and they bring their beauty, compassion and love with them every day and spread it around. Henry Ughami doesn’t cut hair, but he definitely runs the shop, he manages the list of clients, cleans up and is invaluable. I consider him our boss.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Olivia Fougeirol

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