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Riverbank Barber College Open
College 3
Barber College student Breanne Magana gave Barber college owner Dave White a traditional neck shave with a straight razor as lead instructor Rhonda Arnold stood by watching closely. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

The Barber College is finally open for enrollment on Atchison Street in Riverbank and has classes Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to accommodate the working student.

The shop is also open for haircuts and barber services Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The original idea began when owner Dave White wanted to go to college but didn’t want the debt of student loans. Not having any family members that were barbers, White became interested in the profession when he was in high school and knew a fellow student across town that went to barber school and worked at his mother’s shop after school.

“I thought, wow that would be a good way to go to college so I went down and went to barber school and six months later I took my test and everything else is history,” said White. “I bought me a barber shop when I was 18 and bought me a new car when I was 18.”

The first barber shop lasted a year and two months and then White sold it to another person that graduated from barber school. He then attended college in Los Angeles to become a school teacher and worked in barber shops the entire time.

Just before White turned 21, he married his wife Janice and decided to continue barbering instead of becoming a teacher.

“I have been married 55 years now,” stated White, adding that he has been barbering even longer. “I love the business, I learned to love it, and I always wanted to be the best.”

Over the years, the Whites owned 30 barber shops and beauty supply stores throughout California in areas including Lakewood, Victorville, Redondo Beach, Bakersfield, Fresno, Clovis, Merced, Ceres, and Salinas, to name a few.

Working in the Northwest, the Whites owned a barber shop in the Tacoma mall and were looking for a new place with sunshine. So one day they were driving down Highway 99 on vacation and saw the Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto off the freeway. They stopped in and a year later they had a barber shop in the mall.

Looking for a small town in which to raise their two youngest children, the Whites also wanted a small school for their education, so they decided to move to Riverbank where they have been for about 35 years.

The Whites also had barber shops in six different states besides California, with locations in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Montana, Nevada, and a shop in Hawaii for about 20 years. Through the years of barbering, White has also owned four barber colleges.

Since they needed an office to run all the shops in the different states, the Whites purchased the building at 3501 Atchison St., Highway 108 through Riverbank.

After the economic downturn, the Whites closed shops they had in malls, which were getting to expensive to maintain, and then David White had some serious medical issues that forced him to step back some from the business.

Daughter Rhonda Arnold started barbering when she was 18 and received her license to barber, which she has been doing for over 30 years. While he was recuperating, White said he had a talk with his daughter about opening a barber college and her being the lead instructor.

Something that they thought would take a few months ended up taking over two years to get approved to be a college in the state of California.

“This is strictly a Barber College,” said White. “We teach barbering not cosmetology.

“Rhonda my daughter is really the one that runs the school.”

They do offer a crossover program at the barber college where cosmetologists can take 400 hours to be qualified to take the state barber test. Currently there are two cosmetologists that are taking advantage of this program.

“Our philosophy on barbering is that we want to pass on to the next generation of barbers the art of barbering,” expressed White. “Anyone can remove hair but it is the art of barbering that makes you different than the cosmetologist and only a barber can put up the barber pole that goes around.”

Each student that enrolls in the college is interviewed to make sure they are serious about barbering. Currently they have 21 students enrolled since the college first opened its doors on Tuesday, Sept. 2. Students work at their own pace to complete 1500 hours in order to take the state test to receive their barber license.

“We started two guys today and they will graduate at different times because it’s all clock hours,” explained White. “People just don’t come to school exactly like the next guy.”

There are two full-time instructors, Rhonda Arnold and Jennifer Clay, at the college along with White. Clay has been barbering for 24 years and expressed that it is her passion.

Students start learning how to cut hair and shaving. Many of the students have been interested in the business for several years and now would like to get their license. Others have been barbering for years but let their license expire which needs to be renewed every two years so they need to go through the 1500 hours all over again to be licensed.

The students will learn the traditional art of barbering by working on live models and mannequins, where they will learn permanent waving, dyeing, straightening hair, scalp massages, and much more.

“It’s fun because a lot of these guys are really good with their clipper work,” said Arnold.

The barber students will also learn how to use straight razors for shaves which will be on the state test.

“Some of them (students) have never touched a razor and are scared to death to touch a razor,” explained Arnold. “We do a neck shave on everybody and you can’t find a barber shop around that will do the neck shave.”

After the students have completed their 1500 hours they will receive a diploma and be able to take the state test and if passed the first time, the student will get a master’s degree in barbering and be licensed.

“You will never be unemployed and you will never be out of work,” said White. “It is an easy profession to start your own shop if you want to be your own boss. This is probably the only trade school in Riverbank, Oakdale, and Escalon.”

The public is welcomed to try a neck shave for $5 or a haircut for $5 that is given by the students but the instructors are always on hand and inspect every haircut.

“We love the business,” stated White. “It has been good for us, good to me, and good to our family.”