When Porter's owner and founder Blaine Burrell left a chain barbershop to pursue his own barbering interests, it was mostly because he didn't want to cut women's hair anymore.
"Honestly," says Burrell, off for the night and cracking open a beer, "there's just more of it, it's higher maintenance, and it's more dramatic. I just wasn't having fun with it anymore."
But after a fate encounter with an empty building along Garland Avenue pushed him headfirst into owning his own shop, Porter's Barbershop has grown into much more than just one man's haircutting getaway. For the past six years, it's been slowly cementing itself as a bona fide icon of Spokane culture.
"People ask me sometimes if we're a chain," laughs Burrell, obviously flattered by the possibility. "But I think that's because of word of mouth. Word of mouth is an underestimated form of advertising."
Having some very good connections with other local businesses doesn't hurt your reputation either. A tight relationship with the local Giant Screen Printing and a chance appearance in an STCU commercial have gotten the Porter's logo installed in the public consciousness.
Burrell and the three other barbers who work the shop, Chris Banka, Chris Griffith and Billy Jones, have made a name for themselves as experts at cutting men's hair. Ultimately, this is why Porter's was voted the best, but Burrell thinks there might be another, more important, element to his winning formula.
"This place is like an open forum," Burrell says, "where we want you to be yourself. We want to hear how terrible your day was. How your job sucks. If you had a crappy day, we want you to come here and lay it on the line."
As Burrell finishes his sentence, a regular customer strolls through and makes conversation with all of the guys. He's not even getting his hair cut — he's selling his motorcycle and wants to see if any of them are interested. "Wouldn't you know it, I'm getting divorced," he sighs, and all of the barbers make good on condolences.
"That's exactly what I'm talking about," Burrell turns and says as the man leaves. "We want you to be yourself here. This is not about us and our egos."
Burrell takes a sip of his beer. "The haircut just comes with the therapy."
2nd PLACE: The Man Shop; 3rd PLACE: Weldon Barber; NORTH IDAHO'S BEST: Sport Clips, Hayden