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50 years of calm and contentment at the Golden Razor

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Butch Ashworth has been cutting hair at his Golden Razor barber shop for 50 years.

Lee Benson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Just when you’re sure the world is going to rack and ruin, that everybody’s mad about something, that it’s all going 2020, as they say, you go and walk into Butch Ashworth’s barber shop.

There, in a little 400-square-foot space at the back of a hotel that’s seen better times, everything calms down. The Golden Razor barber shop is still open for business, and so is Butch.

A week-and-a-half ago, the spotlight turned on Butch when his customers and his landlord – the proprietors of Hotel RL on 600 South – threw him a party, celebrating 50 straight years of cutting hair at the same location.

It was on July 15, 1970, that the doors to the Golden Razor opened in what was then the brand-spanking-new Tri-Arc TraveLodge, a 400-room behemoth that was Salt Lake’s newest and snazziest high-rise hotel.

The property has been through its transitions in the years since, including a bankruptcy reorganization 15 years ago that relegated Butch’s shop – an enterprise that once included three barbers and three beauticians – to the back of the property.

But Butch remains, as does a clientele that has only grown more loyal down through the years. He has 300 regular customers, give or take, who will drive past a dozen Supercuts, Sport Clips and Great Clips just to plop down in his chair.

Ask Butch the secret to his success and he’ll give a one-word answer: “People.”

As in, he likes them.

“You walk in that door,” he says, pointing to the shop entrance, “and you’re a great guy as far as I’m concerned. That’s the way I look at it. You’re a good friend, until you prove otherwise.”

Over the years, none have proved otherwise, if you don’t count the man who asked Butch not to answer the phone when he was cutting his hair.

“He said, ‘I want your undivided attention,’” says Butch. “But I have to answer the phone to take appointments. That’s how I run my business. So the next time he came in I charged him double. I didn’t throw him out, I just priced him out.”

Butch had no idea he was going to be a barber until he was one. He grew up in the southern Utah farm town of Beaver, hauling hay, working at the service station and playing football, basketball and track at the high school. He figured he was going to be a coach and high school teacher when he majored in P.E. at Southern Utah State in Cedar City. He was one term away from getting his degree in 1965 when a buddy of his told him about a barber school in Salt Lake that was being run by two men from Beaver.

On nothing more than a whim and a feeling, he paid the $1,000 to enroll in the (now defunct) Utah Barber College for its six-month barbering course.

It was love at first snip.

“It’s just always been a good fit for me,” says Butch. “It’s easy for me to get to know people, to talk to them. They’re all equal to me, I don’t segregate anybody out. They’re like my family. Everybody asks, ‘How can you stand being in that little room all day?’ and I say, ‘Every half hour I get a different story from a different person from a different part of the world.’”

If there’s a secret to talking to people, “You just start off soft,” he says. “You can’t jump into it real fast. Just ask them a question about their personal life. What do you do? What do you like? What are your hobbies? They settle in the chair, relax and start to talk.”

He’s cut the hair of doctors, lawyers, judges, church authorities, laborers of all stripes, business travelers, entertainers, all ethnicities – ‘a wide variety,” Butch says. He used to trim Jazz coach Jerry Sloan’s hair regularly. “He was the neatest guy,” says Butch. He also cut coach Phil Johnson’s hair and a bunch of referees back when the Tri-Arc was a main stopover for NBA people. He cut Art Linkletter’s hair once when he was passing through town.

No matter what anyone’s told him – “You can’t believe some of the things I’ve heard” – it all stays in the chair.

He’s rarely if ever worked more than 40 hours a week, kept his own schedule, had weekends off, and made more friends than you can count.

Fifty years later – 55 when you add in the five years Butch cut hair before the Golden Razor opened – look at the result: Butch will turn 79 next week. He looks at least 20 years younger. He’s got all his hair (“That’s good genes,” he says, not barber tricks), takes no medications, plays Thursday afternoons in the men’s golf league at Mountain Dell; and every other weekend he and Beth, his wife of 56 years, take off to spend time at their cabin in the Tushar Mountains above Beaver.

Butch pulls down a quote, one of many he has hanging on the wall of his shop. It reads: “The secret of happy living is not to do what you like, but to like what you do.”

“I like little catchy stuff like that,” he says.

How long will he keep cutting hair?

“I get that question a lot,” he says, smiling. “And I say, ‘Until I fall over dead in your lap.’”