Thursday, July 30, 2009

Harmony Barber Shop

From L to R, the author, his sister-in-law Yvonne, mother-in-law
Becky, nephew Nathan and nephew Elijah in front of the
Harmony Barber Shop after haircuts and treatments.
All the boys (including me) got haircuts.
Everyone got colored hair gel and "pixie dust."
(See picture at the end.)

My first R 'n' R post is about one of my favorite "hidden treasures" at WDW and one of my favorite things to do every trip for a number of years: the Harmony Barber Shop at the Magic Kingdom.

Located on what I would call the border of Town Square and Main Street, U.S.A., Harmony Barber Shop is an experience within an experience. The shop is tucked into the Northeast corner of Town Square between the Car Barn and the Emporium, its official address is 43 Main Street. There is a sign above the door that reads “Barber Shop” and a large, traditional candy-stripe barber pole outside, yet many people miss it. What’s so great about it? It’s a real, old-fashioned, working barber shop! “No way!” says you. “Way!” says I.

My first visit to the shop was probably about seven or eight years ago, but they have been in operation since 1975, originally on West Center Street before moving to their current location during the expansion of the Emporium. My first haircut was done by one of the most popular cast member stylists, Michal Marach. Little did I know at the time that people actually come and wait specifically for Michal and that if he’s off that day, they will come back when he is scheduled to be on again. After that first haircut, which was quite good, I went back a few months later and believe it or not, Michal remembered me. He didn’t remember my name, but he remembered my face, and he remembered things we talked about…and it’s been that way ever since. He epitomizes the WDW cast member. When I go for a haircut, I wait for Michal…and I typically try to time it so I need a haircut during the trip. When the shop is slow and there’s no line outside, it looks like nothing more than a Main Street façade. I always get a good laugh sitting in the chair when someone pokes their head in and realizes that we’re not Audio-Animatronics.

The Barber Shop is not large, in fact it only has two stations and a few chairs inside to sit and wait. Guests are taken on a first-come, first-served basis only. The wait can range from ten minutes to over one hour, depending on when you arrive and how busy the park is, there may be a line outside. The inside décor is well-themed and old-timey, like you would expect. Hair tonics and talcum powders line dark burgundy shelves, there is an old “potbelly” stove, and all sorts of little touches to make you feel like you stepped back in time. They even have an old-time cash register dating from 1912. In fact, until recently the theming was so complete, they only used that cash register for all transactions, cash only. About two years ago they started accepting credit cards.

For even more nostalgia and that famous Disney showmanship, you might even be treated to a visit by the Dapper Dan’s, Main Street, U.S.A.’s very own barber shop quartet. When they make an appearance, this talented group of guys fills this small space with beautiful old-time melodies and a few corny jokes for good measure. When they visit, it’s easy to think that you’ve been magically transported to the early 20th century.

Naturally, the shops specialty is “First Haircuts.” Young guests who receive their first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop are treated to stickers, bubbles, pixie dust and a good time (most of the time). They also receive an extra-special “My 1st Haircut” certificate and set of “mouse ears.” I generally get a standard haircut and the colored hair gel and pixie dust treatment. Yeah! Why let the kids have all the fun?

Last I checked, children’s haircuts (12 & under) are $14, adults are $17. If you just want the colored hair gel and pixie dust treatment, that’s $5. There are a number of places on property to get your hair cut and styled, but the Harmony Barber Shop will do it with style. And that's why it's one of my picks for a great way to get some R 'n' R @ WDW.

I look forward to your thoughts on this topic and other topics. If you have a question, suggestion or just want to chat, please drop me a line or leave a comment.

Welcome to the R 'n' R @ WDW Blog!

I have finally given birth! So glad it wasn't too painful. This concept, this R 'n' R @ WDW idea has been percolating, incubating, growing until I just couldn't ignore it any longer and now, it has appeared in the form of a blog. Why am I writing this and how am I qualified?

I'm a huge Walt Disney World geek and fan of all things Disney! For those who didn't know this about's a true guilty pleasure. For those who did know, well, I'm sure you're not surprised.

When my father visited Florida sometime late-1970/early-1971 to scout some places to move to (from New Jersey), I was just an infant. When I was older, I remember seeing the slides (pictures) from his trip, which included pictures from the Orlando area including a visit to the WDW Welcome Center. When I can, I'll have to scan those old slides and post them. I don't remember my first trip to WDW, but it was probably around 1973/1974 when I was just 4 or 5 years old. My dad could be a tough guy to live with, but he did love to go to WDW throughout his life and that's when I saw the softer side of him. My dad was a dreamer and I think he identified with Walt Disney. I know that he saw many of Walt's innovations at the 1964 World's Fair and those things left a lasting impression on him.

Growing up just a two hour drive from Walt Disney World meant that we were practically locals and I remember begging my parents to buy me just one more "E" ticket or "D" ticket or whatever ticket I needed to ride just one more ride. I remember the Skyway and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Horizons. When I was dating my wife, who lived 300 miles south of me, we would often meet in Walt Disney World and spent many happy days there together throughout our courtship and so it was only logical that we honeymoon there as well. We stayed at the Contemporary since there still weren't that many hotels on property in May of 1990 and we were hooked.

Walt Disney World has been a big part of our lives and we have watched it grow as we have grown. Now, as adults, we have learned how to really enjoy the Resort area without feeling rushed to see and do everything in one trip. And that's what this blog will be about. As I've often said, Florida residency has its privileges: frequent visits to Walt Disney World. Perhaps that's why so many people are moving here. Sorry, I digress.

I understand that for many people, a trip to Walt Disney World is a special, rare occasion. Some save for many years to visit, others can only visit during breaks from school or other holidays. So for many people, a visit to WDW is rushed...they must see and do it all during that trip or they will have to wait perhaps a long time until the next opportunity. For me, though, it will only be a matter of weeks or months until I visit again, so my view is: RELAX. ENJOY. SOAK IT UP. If I miss something, I'll catch it next time.

My hope is that I can impart some of that to you, the readers of and participants in this blog. Even if you must visit "commando" style, perhaps this blog will help you to just slow down, even for just a moment and smell the roses, listen to the music, or discover some other "hidden treasure" at one of the 'happiest places on earth.'