Ottawa

For a cool grand, you, too, could sit on 'a piece of Canadian history'

The Victoria Barber Shop is selling off one of its chrome and leather chairs, first purchased in 1956. But this is no ordinary barber chair, according to the shop's owner: this is "a piece of Canadian history."

Ottawa barber shop's 'famous chair' for sale

Robin Seguin owns Ottawa's Victoria Barber Shop at 9 O'Connor St., steps from Parliament Hill. She recently listed this 'famous' barber chair for sale online. 'It’s gotten quite a few interesting comments on Facebook for sure,' she said. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

UPDATE: After this story was first published, Robin Seguin reached a deal with another Ottawa barber for all three chairs. Seguin told CBC the man plans to refurbish the chairs and use them in his own shop.


It has cradled the posteriors of prime ministers, Supreme Court judges and hockey legends while they sat for a short back and sides, and now it could be yours.

Ottawa's Victoria Barber Shop, where they've been quietly trimming the hair and shaving the stubble of some of the capital's most notable citizens for nearly 100 years, is selling off one of its antique chairs.

I mean, a lot of famous people have sat there.- Robin Seguin, Victoria Barber Shop owner

With its cracked leather and corroded footrest, $1,000 might seem a little steep for this particular item. But according to the shop's owner, Robin Seguin, this is no ordinary barber chair.

"A lot of people say, 'Ugh, it's just a chair.' No, it's not just a chair. It's a piece of Canadian history, more or less. I mean, a lot of famous people have sat there," Seguin told CBC.

'It’s like a classic car because it has that chrome and the ceramic and the leather. It’s got a good solid feel,' Seguin said of the chair. She's asking $1,000, and said she's willing to sell her shop's other two chairs, too. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

To prove her point, Seguin has fastened a sign to the back of the "famous chair" listing some of the local celebrities who have occupied it: former senator and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Frank Mahovlich, MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau, former prime minister Paul Martin and Supreme Court Justice Russell Brown, to name but a few.

"You never know when they walk in who they might be," said Seguin, recalling another Supreme Court judge who wandered in wearing shorts and flip flops. She only discovered his identity later.

Among the portraits on the wall of Ottawa's Victoria Barber Shop is this one of former senator and hockey great Frank Mahovlich, shown seated in one of the shop's original chairs. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

The Victoria Barber Shop is tucked away down a half-flight of stairs near the corner of O'Connor and Wellington streets, where it first opened in 1924 to serve military men. Owing to its prime location and unassuming atmosphere, the shop has become a favourite destination for Ottawa's political set, looking for an honest haircut and half an hour's peace.

"We keep it old-fashioned. There's no loud music. It's not a party atmosphere," said Seguin, who came on board about four and a half years ago and became the shop's sole owner last year. "There's no gossip. What you say here and what you see here, when you leave here you let it stay here."

Seguin shaves a customer's neck with a straight razor. She said her customers appreciate the shop's quiet ambiance and old-fashioned service. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

That's not to say her customers, including some of the illustrious names on that sign, don't confide in her. It just means what happens in the chair stays in the chair.

"It's an intimate setting. You're one-on-one with your barber, and most men know that they only need three things in their life: a good wife, a good barber and a good bartender," Seguin joked. "I know things about these people's lives."

Her customers are fiercely loyal. One has been coming to the shop for 67 years, Seguin said.

"I've been sitting in these chairs for 50 years," another customer chimed in while CBC visited the shop on Wednesday.

The shop's three chairs, purchased by a previous owner in 1956, were manufactured by the Theo A. Kochs Company in Chicago. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

When she heard the building's owner, Public Services and Procurement Canada, was preparing to redo the shop's floor, Seguin decided it would be a good opportunity to unload at least one of her three chairs, which date back to 1956, when a previous owner purchased them from the Theo A. Kochs Company of Chicago.

Seguin said the 66-year-old chairs, which turn, tilt and can of course be raised and lowered hydraulically, have been well maintained and remain in perfect mechanical order. But with only two barbers in the shop at any given time, there's no longer any need for a third chair.

"It's been a few years since a third chair has been used in here," she said. "It gets to the point where OK, we either re-cover it or sell it."

Among the photos of famous Canadians who have had their hair cut at Victoria Barber Shop, Seguin has added a reminder of the recent truck protest that paralyzed the city's downtown, centre. Seguin said her shop remained open throughout, and loyal customers still made it in for a trim. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

Seguin recently put the chair up for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and said she's already had a few bites. She said some people have urged her to put it up for auction, where she could potentially get much more money for it, especially given its unique history.

"Other people are trying to lowball me, offering me $300, and of course I laugh," she said. 

If there's interest in her other two chairs, which were purchased at the same time, Seguin said she's willing to sell them, too, as long as the buyer can wait until she's procured replacements from a manufacturer in Toronto. She said the new barber chairs also cost about $1,000 each. 

"I'm not looking to make money, I'm just looking to kind of break even," Seguin explained. "It'd be nice to have something a little more updated in the shop, but we want to stay with the old-fashioned feel."

First opened in this location on O'Connor Street in 1924, the Victoria Barber Shop is nearing its centenary. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

As for where the "famous chair" ends up, Seguin is just hoping its place in local lore somehow gets the recognition it deserves, even if it doesn't wind up in another barber shop.

"I'm totally down with it being in some rich guy's man cave," Seguin said.

The Victoria Barber Shop on O'Connor Street in Ottawa has changed very little in its nearly 100 years. Seguin, right, said that's the way her customers seem to like it. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

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