Steven Borton opened the Arrowhead Barber Shop six years ago, in the plaza on the northeast corner of 99th and Peoria avenues.
Borton is a Vietnam War veteran, and he comes from a military family.
“My father was in the Navy and my brother was in the Army, too,” he said. “There’s not a thing I don’t like about the military. I’m very pro-military.”
It was that mindset that led to what Borton has now - a barbershop filled with military (and police) keepsakes and memorabilia, and not just his own. They are all over the walls and in glass display cases. There are uniforms and patches and dummy grenades and commendations, and all of them tell a story. Hung most prominently, above the barber’s chairs, is his father’s Navy uniform, encased and preserved in a box.
“Next to that is my uniform,” Borton said. “And the rest are from customers who passed away. Some of them were given to me, and some are on loan. I have the uniform of a brigadier general up there right now, and the family will eventually take that one back.”
As for how Arrowhead Barber Shop became the tribute to the military it is, Borton said it happened naturally. The clientele includes many veterans, and Borton would be sure to talk to them about their experiences.
“A lot of different guys come in here, and there’s a lot of stories to tell,” he said. “The oldest guy I got who comes in here is 97. He was a captain on a World War II destroyer.”
As more and more people came in and got comfortable, they started to come in to talk even when they did not need haircuts. Just ask Jim Greer, a retired Marine and a veteran of Vietnam and Korea, who has been a regular at the shop since 2010.
“I enjoy coming in because of the memorabilia and being able to talk with everyone,” he said. “There’s a sense of camaraderie you get when you come here. I come in here and shoot the breeze when (Borton) isn’t busy.”
There are often as many as a half a dozen veterans in the shop just to chat and that atmosphere is why so many veterans have brought in items of their own.
“A lot of people have brought in some of their stuff just because they want me to have it,” Borton said. “Because they know I will display it honorably and with respect.”
Borton said his veteran clientele was largely WWII at first but now there are not many of them left. Now, he said, Vietnam and Korean War veterans are the most common.
His commitment to veterans extends beyond the displays.
“Recently I did 50 free haircuts at Glendale Community College for veterans in need, part of the city’s Stand Up for Veterans event,” he said. “I’m going to do it again next year, but I’m going to bring another barber with me because that’s a lot of haircuts. I was pretty tired by the end of the day.”
Borton said it is a special moment for him whenever a veteran or a veteran’s family gives him something to display.
“I can’t tell you how much I support the military,” he said. “When someone brings something in for me, it’s an awesome feeling.”
Arrowhead Barber Shop is located at 9720 W. Peoria Ave. and can be reached at 623-977-1755.
• Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or email@example.com.