Little by little, just a few miles west of downtown Belgrade, a labor of love is underway to capture and preserve a little slice of Old West culture for posterity.
You may not have heard of WB Ranch Company unless you’ve looked for a place to board an animal, practice calf-roping, or hold some kind of livestock-related event in the past couple of years. But now, even those not engaged in such pursuits have a reason to venture out to the pastoral preserve for a little old-fashioned pampering.
Red’s Classical Barbershop opened in November in a newly renovated corner of the barn at 150 Overo Trail. There, men are invited to escape from the bustle of Belgrade for professional barbering in a relaxed and rustic country setting.
When WB Ranch Company owner Jason Holland began renovating the existing and dilapidated barn on the 50-acre property, he designated one corner for non-traditional barn use, such as a vacation rental apartment. But then, through a chance meeting with former professional bullfighter-turned-barber Al Sandvold, his vision for the suite changed and it has become home to the classical barbershop.
“I love that it’s here,” Holland said of the barbershop. “People can come in here and get a real shave and haircut from someone who used to be a professional bull rider. It helps us spread a positive outlook to what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Holland admits he wasn’t sure exactly what that accomplishment would be when – two years ago – he purchased the 50-acre spread that had been home to the former Four Dot Arena. He made the decision after the death of his grandfather, Walter Benjamin Holland, a member of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.
“I had always driven by (the property) and had affection for it,” Holland said. After his grandfather died, he bought the facility because he was attracted by “the nostalgia of the place.”
“It reminds me a lot of my youth,” Holland said. “The old wood and everything reminds me of my grandfather’s barn.”
Most everything on the property, including the 33,000-square-foot barn, had fallen into significant disrepair, and Holland has spent his free time away from his day job as owner of Holland Concrete restoring the property to its former glory. That has involved everything from replacing or fixing almost all the fencing to rehabilitating the fields to renovating the giant barn that had fallen into significant disrepair.
According to his grandson, Walter Benjamin Holland was “into rodeo” and worked with kids who were interested in the sport and the cowboy culture. A lifelong Helena-area resident, W.B. Holland was inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2012 because of his efforts to promote the sport.
In an attempt to honor that legacy, Jason Holland is intentionally transforming the property into a place where young people – including his 11- and 9-year-old sons – can get outdoors and enjoy some more traditional Montana experiences.
“I want the kids to grow up around something like this instead of growing up at home around screens,” Holland explained.
Toward that end, Holland has provided deep discounts to 4H-ers for use of the arena, as well as practice space for Little League teams in the off season. He said he has geared his business deliberately to novice and kid-friendly events.
“I want people to enjoy the place and have a good time,” he said. “I don’t want them to be intimidated.”
Once a very significant portion of the barn renovation was completed, including the quarters that might have become a vacation rental, Holland decided it was time to bring on a professional facility manager. He tapped his friend Vance Ruff, who one day bluntly told him that he needed a better haircut. Ruff
recommended Sandvold, his own barber, and a friend and former associate from the rodeo business.
“It was a better haircut,” Holland admitted.
It so happened that Sandvold, who worked at a Belgrade barber shop for the past three years, was looking for a place to open his own shop. Sandvold went to barber school in Salt Lake City after retiring from a 30-year career as a bullfighter with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Professional Bull Riders, but his affinity for the cowboy culture is still strong. When he saw Holland’s renovated barn space, “I was pretty much sold,” he said.
Holland didn’t have any reservations about letting the space to Sandvold, either.
“After meeting him, and seeing how he did his job, I was really open to it,” Holland said of the idea for an old-time barbershop to move into the WB barn. “Al’s a perfectionist.”
In the few weeks Red’s Classical Barbershop has been open, both men agree that the arrangement is working well.
“This fit me as a person,” Sandvold said, adding that many of clients are in the western, cattle or rodeo business so they enjoy the ambience of the WB location and barn. He said he expected to lose some clients when he moved a few minutes out of town, but now that he is able to offer his services by appointment, his regulars often find that they actually save time. Sandvold explained that modern barbering is “all in the details,” so he takes his time, blocking out 40 minutes for each haircut.
Red’s offers hot lather shaves, beard trims, Osage head massage, and regular and specialty haircuts, including fades, lines, designs and hard parts.
“There is a difference between old barber haircuts and new barber haircuts,” Sandvold said. “Kids come and show me a picture, and I can emulate it.”
For his part, Holland is thrilled to have the barbershop on the place.
“It brings people out to the barn in a positive way to have a nice experience,” he said.
Appointments at Red’s Classical Barbershop can be made at Schedulicity.com. For more information about WB Ranch Company’s facilities and services, call the barn at (406) 570-8962 or Jason Holland at (406) 581-1558.