Fournier’s Barber Shop Grows with Franklin

Shop on Central Street opens early

By Ken Wells

First thing in the morning, most businesses on Franklin’s Central Street were just opening up, but some were earlier risers. Right next door to Brother’s Donuts, Fournier’s Barber Shop was already plying their trade in sharp haircuts and flowing conversation when I walked in.

The first customer of the day was getting a haircut and beard trim from barber Isaias in a big swiveling barber’s chair that faced a mirrored wall. The shop was laid out in a familiar way, with a row of big comfy-looking leather chairs with their backs against the wall opposite the mirrors. A queue of customers could lounge there and chat with the barbers and other customers or look over magazines and newspapers. An impressive row of knee-high aloe plants stood in big terracotta pots in the sunshine by the shop window, and zig zag of zebra-striped green and purple “inch plants” trailed from pots hanging on the wall leading back to the mirrors.

Young shop owner Joe Fournier was standing ready for his first appointment of the morning by the other chair. Joe quickly stepped up and greeted me with an easy smile. He hardly looks old enough to have been barbering for fifteen years, but he is clearly an old hand at putting customers at ease as he does his work, chatting about whatever comes to his customers’ mind.  “We always complain about the weather, no matter what it is”, he laughs. “It’s a traditional barber shop, and it’s pretty unfiltered. Sports, local banter, politics – it’s all good.”

With little prompting, Joe rolls into his life story: grew up in Boscawen and went to Merrimack Valley, deciding to get right to work after he graduated. He was working with his cousin at a landscaping business when a buddy who was attending barber school in Penacook offered to give him a shave. “It was cool, and I soon fell in love with barbering. I decided to jump into it in ‘08”. He went to barber school, then worked at a shop in Plymouth until 2013.

That’s the year Franklin barber Tom Gullage decided to retire, and Joe bought Tom’s business on Central Street, opposite City Hall. Joe has been in business in Franklin for eleven years now, and seven years ago, in 2017, he moved the business to its current location at 420 Central Street. “Back in 2013”, Joe says, “Franklin was pretty much like they say, but now things have really picked up. Revitalization started around then – lots of purchasing and fixing up the downtown buildings.” He says public opinion about Franklin’s rehabilitation projects are all over the map. Progress on the Mill City Park (and its associated man-made whitewater kayaking features) was well-received at first, but then some were worried that taxpayer money went toward it.” (See “Franklin Harnesses Water Power Again” [Partichand Interview] in this issue.)

As 2020 began, business had grown so much, Joe hired Isaias Muniz to share the work with him, but then life threw him a curveball. “It’s been an adventure – the pandemic lockdown. For a while the business was up in the air. It was the first time the full week around Christmas wasn’t all booked out. Now things are back to pre-Covid levels. Now we see the whole range of people: Mom’s with kids, women getting cuts – everybody from younger kids to the senior gentleman crew.”

Joe sounds pleased with the redevelopment happening in Franklin. The restaurants are doing well, and the Chinburg housing development is going to be great. He notes that not too many kayakers come dripping wet off the river, looking for haircuts. But he looks to the giant apartment complex in Stevens Mill as a new pool of potential customers. “It’s been an adventure…” he grins.