Episode 4 Elysian Barbershop in Los Angeles

In Episode 4, we meet Victor Bañuelos, founder of the classic-style Elysian Barbershop in East Hollywood. Growing up in a family of Mexican immigrants, Victor learned how to help run the family's small business. After going on to manage a classic-style barber shop in Los Angeles, Victor decided to take on the new challenge of starting his own ba...
Apr 18, 2024 — 3 min read



Victor Bañuelos is the founder of the classic-style Elysian Barbershop (@elysianbarbershop) in East Hollywood.

About this video series

My City: Los Angeles ft. Roy Choi

My City: Los Angeles ft. Roy Choi

Follow along as Roy Choi introduces us to three of his favorite Los Angeles business owners who are as dedicated as he is to building community and their businesses.

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Victor Bañuelos: Everyone has beauty in them. Everyone has something that somebody else doesn't have. I like to think that I can find that.

Roy Choi: My name is Roy Choi. I'm a chef, entrepreneur, family man, poppy. This is the LA that I love, and I really want to show you small business owners that I believe are connected to the community and continuing to grow the community that they're in. A Legion Barbershop is in East Hollywood. It's sand in between Silver Lake, Koreatown, and then outskirts of downtown. What you're seeing now is a lot of young people coming in, like Victor, bringing their craft into an old area. He's cutting for a whole new generation. Barbershop culture is not just about cutting hair. That's why I love Victor. 

Victor Bañuelos: Thanks for doing this, man. 

Both my parents are from Mexico, but growing up for me, it was cool. It was busy. My mom, she has a catering truck. She'd give me a list and a wad of money, and it was up to me to make sure that wad of money was enough for everything that she needed. It was my job to balance the checkbook out, to make sure that the bills were going to get paid.

Growing up in that very Mexican home, there were certain things that were always on the tv. My dad was really in love with the golden era of Mexican cinema. There was one guy coming up in these movies and this was Pedro Infante. He would always have the little pencil stash. He's combing his hair and sometimes there were girls peeking through his window and looking at him. I was like, that's cool. I want girls to do that to me, and if it takes being well groomed, then that's what I'm going to do. I started getting into combing my hair and making sure my hair looked good, and I started seeking out legitimate barbershops. They'd give me the straight razor, the hot towel. They would style my hair afterwards and give me a little massage, and I just started falling in love with the barbershop culture.

So I started working at Vinny's Barbershop, not that far from here. It's owned by Omar Romero, who's one of my best friends. I was his right hand man. I was a manager of Vinny's for gosh, like six and a half years, and I remember being at Vinny's and just having this kind of moment of clarity there where I was like, this is too good. I'm always busy, but if I didn't leave at that moment, I would never have fulfilled my dream of having my own shop because it was just too comfortable. When I decided it was time to open up my shop, I had already been thinking like, okay, what's it going to take for me to be able to save enough money? So I moved in with my dad for six months, and then I finally saved enough money and eventually opened up my own barbershop.

I asked myself, why am I going to open this place? What am I contributing to the neighborhood? That was a hard question for me to answer. I wanted to have some sort of escapism for people. I wanted people to come in here and just feel comfortable, feel relaxed, feel like it was some kind of a sanctuary. There's this thing that we have here and we all, it's our mantra and it's bringing neighborhood to Hollywood, and that's something to remind us, the barbers, what we are doing, what service we're doing to the neighborhood. Having Roy in my life, I've always kind of leaned on him for certain business advice. I remember him saying, you lead by example. Don't ask something that you won't do. I won't ever ask my barbers or my apprentices or anybody in my life to do anything for me that I wouldn't do. I remember that and I still keep that in my heart.

Roy Choi: It's not just about cutting hair. It's about empowering and giving someone the tools in life to go out and have confidence or belief in themselves.

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