Jake Bushnell returns to Huntington Beach, hair clippers in hand
Fostering a sense of community has always been important to Jake Bushnell.
He used to do it with a microphone and his voice as the lead singer and drummer for reggae rock band HB Surround Sound.
A couple of decades later, Bushnell does it with a barbershop chair, a pair of clippers and a smile.
He is preparing to open up Nice Day Barbershop in Huntington Beach on Friday, Oct. 6.
He never really left Surf City — Bushnell, 44, now lives in Newport Beach near Hoag Hospital — but it’s a homecoming of sorts.
This new barbershop is less than a mile away from the Ocean View School District schools he used to attend, Village View Elementary School and Spring View Middle School. His alma mater of Marina High School is also just a couple of blocks north on Springdale Street.
Bushnell, who worked at Huntington Surf & Sport for seven years during the early years of his band, has sparked a new connection with his past. When he reached out on social media announcing his new barbershop, Bushnell said he heard from people he hadn’t talked to since those Marina days of the mid-1990s.
“I’m going to be seeing people that I haven’t seen in 25 years, and I can’t wait to see them,” Bushnell said. “When you’re a barber, you get to visit with every one of your friends all the time. They just come to you every couple of weeks, and you catch up. I can’t wait to be back in everyone’s life. That’s so rad, and now they get to meet [my 4-year-old son] Rocky.”
Bushnell anticipates Rocky being in the shop at least a couple of times a week, since he and his wife, Lorna, both work full-time jobs. Bushnell has had a few of those since HB Surround Sound, which reunited for a few years, stopped playing shows in 2014.
He spent about a year as tour manager for popular reggae rock band Dirty Heads, which features his brother, Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell, as a group member. But what came next?
“[HB Surround Sound] decided to give it a break, and I realized I don’t have any other skills,” Jake Bushnell said. “I had a friend who was also a musician who had gotten off the road and became a barber. I called my friend, and asked, ‘What’s barbering like? All I know how to do is play drums and sing.’”
Bushnell’s friend invited him to spend a weekend at his barbershop, American Vintage in Long Beach. Bushnell fell in love with it, and quickly signed up for a barber school in Westminster.
He ended up barbering at American Vintage for about seven years. During this time, he started his “The Morning Ride Show,” streaming himself live as he would drive up Pacific Coast Highway to work at Belmont Shore.
“It felt like the most natural change,” he said. “A lot of musicians are barbers, you’ll find, because it provides you the same lifestyle. You get to be creative, you’re cutting hair, you get to talk trash with people. There’s really no rules. You can wear whatever you want, for the most part. You can make your own schedule, you listen to cool music if you’re at the right shop. It almost feels like you’re on tour just sitting backstage and talking with the other bands … It’s so fun.”
Annie Ustayan, owner of American Vintage Barbershop, saw some of those personality traits in Bushnell. She said she and her team wish him well in his new venture.
“He’s an excellent barber with a good attitude,” Ustayan said. “Jake had a lot of stories to bring to the table with his music background. He’s just very enthusiastic about life, so I think he connected with his clients a lot in his chair. On top of being a good barber, I think [his upbeat personality is] what got him where he is today.”
The pandemic lockdowns, which came soon after Rocky was born, threw some hiccups into Bushnell’s journey. Earlier this year, he barbered for a few months at a little shop called Borto in Newport Beach.
But Bushnell knew he wanted his own place. An abandoned nail salon in the Westfair Shopping Center presented that opportunity.
“Jake is always looking to take care of others and just uplift people,” said his good friend, Enrique Najera, a teacher at Ocean View High. “He’s super-positive, and that’s why it’s not a coincidence that his shop is called Nice Day Barbershop. He wants to take care of other people and make them look good, and at the same time just share his story and build community in our hometown. It’s a dream come true for all of us because we all want Jake to succeed, you know?”
Najera doesn’t play music, but he said he still grew up as an unofficial member of HB Surround Sound. He’s also been coaching cross-country and track at his alma mater since 2012, which provided Bushnell an opportunity to give back in 2019.
By using “The Morning Ride Show” as a fundraiser, Bushnell said he was able to raise $1,400 in donations for the Seahawks’ cross-country and track programs at a time when they needed it the most.
“He’s definitely paid it forward to our kids and our community,” Najera said, adding that his friend has even gotten into running himself in recent years. “One thing that I love and admire about Jake is that he’s all about the people.”
Nice Day Barbershop will start with three chairs, though Bushnell wants to eventually add a fourth. It will feature a back area with a waiting room, which Bushnell wants to equip with a surfboard rack — he’s a surfer too — and have World Surf League and mixed martial arts events on television.
He will surely play the music of HB Surround Sound and Dirty Heads in the shop, Bushnell said with a smile. But he also wants to meet younger musicians in bands. If he likes their vibe, he’ll feature them on his playlist, which Bushnell plans to keep on Spotify so everyone can enjoy it.
That sense of community remains strong in Bushnell, who sees signs of his past in the shopping center itself. The store next door, Baskin-Robbins, is where he used to get his childhood birthday cakes.
“It felt right,” he said. “I gotta open up my own shop, it’s time. I’m 44, so let’s go.”
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