THE GARDEN GROVE JOURNAL
FROM PAGE 1
THURSDAY, AUG. 1 5, 20 1 3
Bobby Ogata July 25,
F R O M PA G E 1
1 956 and burglary that earned him stints at some of the state’s most infamous correctional institutions – Tehachapi, Corcoran, Chino. His customers come from all over – some from the nearby neighborhoods of Westminster and Garden Grove, others from Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Pedro. They are a diverse crowd – men and women, police officers, high school baseball players, corporate executives. On a recent afternoon, a father and son were visiting from London. Posted on a door to a back room, a sign reads: “Bobby – The Barber of Westminster.” “Bobby is a master at his craft,” said Garden Grove resident Brian Allan, 41, as he sat in a black barber chair and Ogata worked on a trim. “I’m a creature of habit, and Bobby’s been taking care of me for years. It’s the attention to detail. As soon as I come in, he knows exactly how to cut my hair.” As afternoon slid into evening, Ogata moved from one customer to the next. A muted baseball game played on a television above. Gershwin’s “Summertime” drifted from the stereo. “It’s calm and mellow, a good atmosphere,” said Denise Ferguson, who cuts hair alongside Ogata, adding that he has been known to throw out unruly or disrespectful customers. “It’s safe here.” Ogata’s journey to Westminster began on the streets of Los Angeles. He and his four sisters were raised in the shadow of the Coliseum. His father was a stuntman in Hollywood and worked behind the betting windows at Los Alamitos Race Course. “We were a one-car family,” Ogata said. “My parents did the best they could.” Ogata started running with the neighborhood kids on his block. He was often the only kid of Japanese descent around. He wanted to fit in. By the time he was 11, he had started sniffing paint to get high. By his teens, he was fighting and popping pills. “Growing up, I felt like I had something to prove,” he said. “I always wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I paid the price for that.” When he was 17, he had
City of residence:
Westminster Favorite sport:
Handball. “I’ve won 20 years straight. Nobody can beat me. I learned to use both hands. There are courts I’ll play on in Santa Ana, Westminster, all over.” Favorite sports team: Dodgers.
“Sandy Koufax was my inspiration in Pee Wee. He was lefthanded, like me. He was my guy.” Favorite magazine: PHOTOS: KEVIN LARA, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Bobby Ogata, 57, is the owner of Bobby’s One at a Time Barber Shop in Westminster, which has earned the reputation as a popular location for customers to get a great haircut at a reasonable price. Ogata, a recovering heroin addict who learned to cut hair in prison, now devotes much of his spare time mentoring struggling youths.
Ogata spent 26 years in prison for crimes that earned him stints at some of California’s most infamous correctional institutions – Tehachapi, Corcoran, Chino.
Ogata, shown cutting 9-year-old Fionn Tameifuna’s hair, says he is looking to hire new barbers to help out at the shop. He would like to take a vacation, perhaps to Maui.
his first taste with trouble with the law for his part in a liquor store robbery. He would spend the better part of the next three decades in prison, most of that time spent using heroin. Much of his arms are covered in ink he got inside, a patchwork of memories from his past – poppy seeds and a lion on his left arm, a dragon snaking up his right. Ogata said he learned a lot about life while in prison.
“In the beginning, a lot of people took my kindness for weakness,” he said. “I would loan people money, and they wouldn’t pay me back. I started fighting people and doing bad things.” But prison is also where Ogata learned to cut hair. At first, it was just something to pass the time. Then he got good at it. Word got out. First he began trimming hair for packs of cigarettes, then he started making actual money – $27 a
Ogata, who has been known to toss out unruly or disrespectful customers, displays his tools of the trade at his barbershop, which marked its fifth anniversary in July.
month. Bert Mendoza was working for the state Department of Corrections as a substance-abuse program coordinator when he met Ogata in the recreation yard at Corcoran State Prison. Ogata, about to be released, approached Mendoza, asking him for his business card. Ogata called him when he got out. “He didn’t want to go back,” said Mendoza, who
helped Ogata transition back to society and kick his heroin habit. “He was willing to change. He wasn’t a violent person. He learned he had to give back to his community. You work for your money, you don’t steal. You don’t cut corners.” For Ogata, that meant giving up drugs and staying out of trouble. He got a job and made friends who were positive influences. “I wanted what they had – serenity and peace with
Sports Illustrated. “I love reading.” On haircuts:
“Fades are kind of played out.” themselves,” Ogata said. “I wanted that inner peace. I had a lot of conflicts within myself. That was a struggle. Now I’m all right. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m a lot better.” He worked to make amends with his family. He got back to cutting hair. After working at a Salvation Army in Garden Grove and as a manager at a Tustin sober-living facility, Ogata dove into haircutting full time. Last month, he celebrated the five-year anniversary of his shop on Springdale Street. He donates haircuts for fundraisers benefiting sports teams at Pacifica High School. He mentors former inmates and friends battling addiction. He visits with at-risk teenagers at Touchstones, an addiction-treatment center in Orange. “By going there to speak, I participate in my own recovery,” Ogata said. “I want to lead by example.” In October, he will celebrate 12 years of being clean of drugs and free from prison. Ogata is looking to hire new barbers to help out at the shop. He’d like to take a vacation – maybe to Maui, where his parents are from. But in the meantime, he helps his customers look and feel a little better than when they walked in. When Ogata arrives at 9 a.m. to open his shop, customers are often waiting outside. “They know I’ll be there,” he said.
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