From cutting hair in his backyard as a teenager to owning Don Oscar’s Barber Shop (2918 W 10th Street) today, Oscar Diaz says his earliest inspiration came from his friends—but not in the way you’d expect. He started cutting hair because of “messed up haircuts” his friends and classmates got from other barbers. Show up to school with a bad haircut? Oscar was the guy who would call you out.
Eventually, he decided to do something about it. During his sophomore year, he asked his friend Saul Saldivar to allow him to cut—and fix—Saul’s hair.
“I told him one day, ‘Hey, let me fade you up, bro,’” Oscar says, as he explains how he managed to convince his friend to allow him to cut his hair, even though his practice in cutting hair was still minimal.
Saul let Oscar cut his hair once a week, even when he didn’t need a trim.
“Next thing you know, I started building a clientele,” Oscar says. He also started cutting his soccer teammates’ and other friends’ and families’ hair.
It started in his backyard with Walmart clippers and trash bags to cover his clients. Oscar then decided to condition his basement with a chair and mirror to continue cutting hair. The setup didn’t last long, even though it gave him a taste of what it meant to be his own boss and business owner. The basement quickly became small for his business; he knew he needed to start working at a barbershop.
In October 2016, Oscar started working at Victoria’s Salon and Barber Shop in Greeley, Colorado. He was stationed near his boss, Victor, and he started to learn the ropes of what it takes to own a barbershop. In 2017, Oscar enrolled in barber school, and after one year and 1,500 hours of practice, he graduated a fully licensed barber.
But Oscar missed being his own boss.
“At my house, I would make my own schedule; pretty much no one would tell me what to do,” he admits.
He decided it was time to return to his own shop—but he didn’t know then he’d be working even more hours once he owned a business.
The first-ever Don Oscar’s Barbershop location had bad air conditioning, a small parking lot, and was hard to find because the entrance door was at the back of the building. It was also small.
“It was only two stations and four waiting chairs,” says Oscar.
It may seem like the odds were stacked against Oscar, but he didn’t give up, and over time his list of clients continued to grow.
“You really don’t know if people are going to show up, or if the client will come back. And no matter what, you have to pay the bills—even if you don’t have clients in your chair.”
Despite the challenges, he knew he had started something positive. While other barbers struggled to get clients in the door, he struggled to fit all his in the small space.
That first location only lasted three months. Don Oscar’s Barbershop moved to 10th Street and 29th Avenue, upgrading from two stations to four. But even that couldn’t sustain the pace of the business.
Oscar decided to make one last expansion and obtained a bigger part of the same building. He could now offer six stations to clients, with room to grow. Oscar is sure that growth will come.
“I am hungry. I want to build my foundation so that down the road, I am just managing.”
Oscar has his parents to thank for that hunger and ambition. The family migrated to the United States from El Salvador, from poverty to opportunity here in Greeley. His parents both worked hard and laid a foundation for him that showed him, as he puts it, he “had to do everything right because you never know; they might send you back.”
Following his parents’ example, Oscar strives to be a good person. He dreams of creating generational wealth, and he is determined to break the chain effect of poverty in his family. But even as his business grows at an exponential rate, he plans to continue to offer his services here in Greeley.
“You can go and open a barbershop really anywhere. Anyone is going to get a haircut. Hair always grows. There are people everywhere. But for me, I grew up here in Greeley, and I like Greeley. Like I said, [this community] makes me.”
Oscar wants his growing business to stay here and to give back to those who have helped throughout his journey. It’s not just his work as a barber; he has become a friend, counselor, and mentor for the many who sit in his chair. His haircuts have now accompanied numerous clients during important lifetime moments, and there is no doubt he will continue to make an impact in our community.
As of his friend Saul? He is still in Oscar’s life. Their friendship keeps on growing (like Oscar’s business!), and Saul’s artwork now adorns the walls of Don Oscar’s Barbershop. Their story isn’t just one of a barber’s career; it’s one of how friendship and community can make a lifelong impact. And that’s the story of Greeley.
Long live the friendship, long live Don Oscar’s Barbershop, long live the City of Greeley.
September 16 is World Barber Day. Join us in celebrating these incredible artisans here in Greeley and all over the world!