Business

Hill's Barbershop owner retires after more than 40 years

Young Choi (left) will be the new owner of Hill
Young Choi (left) will be the new owner of Hill's Barbershop in downtown Redmond. Current owner Mike Hill is retiring after 40-plus years in the business.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

In his 40-plus years as a barber, Mike Hill of Hill's Barbershop at 8147 161st Ave. N.E. in downtown Redmond has seen all sorts of hairstyles.

From the shorter military-like styles and the longer Beatles cut of the 1960s, to the big, blowout 'dos of the 1970s and 1980s, to the more varied styles of today, his clients have come in for years asking for just about everything. And Hill, who attended barber school in 1968 as a teenager, has complied and given them what they want — with the exception of a couple styles.

"I'm a mullet-free zone," he said. "I'm a combover-free zone also."

Hill began cutting hair around 1971 with his father, who started the barbershop in 1965. Hill became the owner in 1975 when his father retired. And now at age 60, Hill is retiring from the business.

He is retiring due to health issues but said he would continue working as a barber if he were able. In his retirement, Hill will concentrate on his physical therapy and focus on spending time with his family.

PASSING THE SHEARS

Thursday will be Hill's final day before the shop transfers ownership on Friday to Young Choi, a barber from Shoreline who recently purchased the business from Hill.

"It's a good deal for me and a good deal for him," Hill said.

Choi discovered Hill's through Craigslist online, saying when he saw the ad, he thought, "This place should be mine."

Before coming to Redmond, Choi has spent 10 years cutting hair. He began his career in South Korea until he moved to the area about six years ago. Then he worked in Bellevue, Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood and most recently, in Shoreline.

To Choi, who likened cutting hair to artwork, owning his own business means freedom and marks a new journey.

"I think it'll be so interesting," Choi said about his taking over Hill's.

AN EXPANDED FAMILY

While Hill has seen hairstyles evolve through the years, the same couldn't really be said about his clients. About 80 percent of Hill's customers are repeat customers — some of which date back to the barbershop's early days.

"I have current customers who were my father's customers," Hill said.

Hill's loyal following has also become multigenerational as longtime customers have begun bringing their kids to his barbershop, as well.

Hill said his favorite thing about being a barber has been the stories his clients tell him and the connections he has made, describing them as "priceless."

"It's amazing how close you become to people 20 minutes at a time over a lifetime," Hill said. "My customers kind of became family, so I have a very expanded family."

A member of that expanded family is 31-year-old Jeff Churchill, who has been getting his haircut at Hill's since he was about 5 or 6 years old.

Upon hearing about Hill's retirement, Churchill said all good things come to an end and plans to continue getting his haircut at Hill's.

"I'm glad that Mike is embarking on a well-deserved retirement," Churchill said.

He said he has continued to go to Hill's because the barber "knows how to cut (his) hair." Other reasons Churchill has been a repeat customer is out of loyalty, to support small businesses, as well as commiserate about the Mariners.

"It's a very friendly, low-key place," Churchill said.

Having grown so close to customers such as Churchill, Hill said the connections he has made throughout his career have been the best part about being a barber.

"I will miss talking with my customers, with my friends," he said.

SAME NAME, DIFFERENT FACE

As he begins his new journey, Choi said he is looking forward to making the same type of connection with his customers as Hill has in his career.

"I'm so excited to meet customers and the people in this community," Choi said.

Under the new ownership, the only changes will be Choi and the shop's new phone number: (206) 390-4532. Choi said the name and interior will remain the same.

"I love this place so much," he said.

With the other man's enthusiasm for the barbershop, Hill is confident Choi will be a great addition to downtown Redmond.

"The barbershop is in good hands," Hill said.

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