[You're reading the Mercury's Auction Winner Issue! You may recall that in December we raised over $23,000 for Outside In through the sale of such privileges as designing the cover, receiving this glowing review, and an appearance on every single page of the print edition. Big ups to winning donors Brick's Barber!--Eds.]
FOR MANY URBAN Portland dwellers, a trip down SW Barbur Boulevard is rarely more than a means to an uninspiring end: dropping off a rent check, visiting a dentist, getting lost trying to get back on I-5. But these days you just might see a grown man alongside the road dressed as a chicken (technically a rooster, but don't worry about that now), and if you follow the chicken it will lead you to what is one of the most colorful experiences to be had in this town: a visit to Brick's Barber. (That chicken? His name is Brick.)
In the early days of Brick's, which is a couple months shy of its one-year anniversary, you were 99 percent guaranteed to find a fast-talking, generous, spontaneous, and driven man under that chicken suit, by the name of Eric Cavizo. These days one of Cavizo's many friends and converts might just as likely be volunteering on chicken duty (there are numerous options for suits, including a giant inflatable one he refers to as his "10-foot cock"), but you'll find him all the same at the cheerful two-chair shop where a $12 haircut comes with a complimentary beer or two, lively conversation, perhaps a visit from an up-and-coming local hiphop artist, and more often than not, an eyebrow wax.
Cavizo's been cutting hair since childhood, using his friends as an early testing ground before moving on to professional status. He owned a salon in Tacoma, but got tired of dealing with the management end of the business, so he closed shop and struck out south to Portland. Things didn't go as planned, and he found himself unable to get work and homeless, an experience he now credits as having been invaluable. Eventually pulling himself up through some literally odd jobs—such as dressing up as Captain Morgan to advertise rum with a pirate accent in bars—today things are looking way up. Together with his business partner and girlfriend Chelsey Pratt (who notes, laughing, that she found a job, a boyfriend, and an apartment all through one Craigslist ad), Cavizo is taking Portland by storm in an ambush launched from the unsuspicious rim of downtown. Plus he's expanding his collection of mascots—he recently acquired "Spoticus," the iconic purple octopus that hung outside the Greek Cusina for over 20 years.
Spend any amount of time at Brick's, and you'll quickly notice that the flow of traffic in the door is steady, and that a typical transaction begins with the customer introducing themselves as a friend of another client, one who specifically cautioned them not to skip the eyebrow wax that comes free on your first visit. Cavizo is surprisingly passionate about eyebrow waxing. Although in jeans and funky sneakers he doesn't particularly look it, he refers to himself as "one of the original metrosexuals," after he himself first succumbed and allowed his brow to be waxed. He describes this experience as life changing. Born with a heavy, hooded brow, he claims he used to look mean and scowling, and was accordingly accustomed to the subconsciously defensive reactions people have to a slightly menacing appearance. After the wax, he went to his usual store to buy his usual smokes from the usual grumpy woman who worked there, and was shocked when, after months of gruff, standoffish treatment, she greeted him pleasantly. And so began his rebirth by way of hair removal, an experience so profound he feels compelled to "pay it forward" to this day. Thus the free trial, which he also extended to this reporter. (I didn't think I needed one, but when the expertly gentle, genetically mindful procedure was through, I conceded.)
Decorated with bright, funky knickknacks that Cavizo says were all given to the shop by friends, Brick's is the type of place that open-minded people seek out when they're looking for something different, with loads of personality. While successful (it wouldn't be surprising to see one or more additional locations down the road), the business is truly a labor of love for Cavizo and Pratt, and it's evident in the reflection of their good vibes and eclecticism on the shop. The name, (in addition to its chicken-y purpose) is a reference to the philosophy that everyone is a brick working together to create a whole in society.
"People charge too much!" Cavizo says of his decision to stick with an exceptionally reasonable $12 price tag, adding that he dislikes the added pressure caused by charging a lot of money for a haircut. If he's not feeling it, and doesn't think he's going to give you the best haircut possible, he might tell you to come back tomorrow. "I don't give a shit," he grins slyly, referring to his pure-of-heart and uncannily charmed approach to doing business, "I run it in a way that's totally opposite from the norm."
And in spite of the odds, it works. "You never know who you're going to meet," says Pratt of life at Brick's, and it's true. Twelve dollars to find out for yourself, and don't forget the eyebrows.