Barber saw Morro Bay become a city

As a professional listener, Mike Dominguez knows many local secrets, but he’s not telling. His customers celebrate and complain about their families and careers and talk a little politics. Dominguez has been a favorite barber in Morro Bay for 50 years.

He never intended to spend his career as a barber. “Mrs. Cooley at San Luis High had a career day,” he said. “I didn’t know what I wanted, and barber college stood out, so after that, I’d say I was going to own my own barbershop.”

Born on the Nagano Ranch in 1938, Dominguez remembers many happy times growing up with his cousins, the Morales family. They are all still very close and travel together.

“In 1946, we moved to Morro Bay,” Dominguez said. “I started (at) Morro Bay Elementary the year Mr. Tognazzini became principal.”

Football and track were Dominguez’s passions in high school. He’d hitch rides back to Morro Bay every day after practice. But in 1955, he traded sports for work after a motorcycle accident.

“Morro Bay was a fishing town then. I worked for Brown’s Landing and the Leages as a deckhand — mostly oysters and abalone,” Dominguez said.

Barber college in Bakersfield called him. Big Ed, well-known by many from Bakersfield, was one of his classmates. In 1960, Lendal Johnson bought Dominguez his chair at the small barbershop on Morro Bay Boulevard.

“It was slim pickings when I started,” Dominguez said. “People weren’t making money, but every time I’d think of giving it up, Lendal would help by giving me a raise and convincing me it would get better.”

By 1963, Dominguez noticed a change in the economy. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Hearst Castle brought in workers and tourists, and albacore fishing was big.

“I saw Morro Bay become a city. People don’t realize how much the founders had to do to make us a city,” Dominguez said.

At one point, there were seven barbershops in town.

Good customer service has always been Dominguez’s idea of good business. Over the years, he’s provided haircuts at the former air base near Cambria and local hospitals and nursing homes.

“I’ve known all the farmers, ranchers, fishermen, fathers and grandsons,” Dominguez said. “I’d like to thank my customers. We had a pretty good run.”

Liz Fry and her son John work the shop full time now. Dominguez thought he was going to retire, but his customers need him. He’s still cutting hair two days a week because his wife, Delores, enjoys her job at Village Cleaners.

They have four children and grandkids they like to visit. Dominguez hopes his next big trip is to Peru.

Reach Judy Salamacha at 801-1422 and jsalamacha@yahoo.com.