When you first set foot into Big Joy Salon, it might not be quite what you expect. The non descript frosted door that you enter through leaves much to the imagination, and owner and stylist Shaunn Watt tells us that’s exactly what he wanted. He uses words like “small” and “quiet” to describe his space, and we’d garner it’s no stretch to add “hidden gem” to that list of adjectives.
“People here will just ring the buzzer and come and get their hair cut,” Shaunn says with a shrug. “I never thought that people would just do that; but people are pretty brave in this neighbourhood. I don’t think you could do that in other parts of Vancouver.” Opened this past May, Shaunn says the salon caters to a mixed clientele, and is inclusive to everyone. “We attract really nice people who are really opened minded,” he says, cleaning up after a haircut he’s just finished.
“It’s a pretty progressive area… which is important to me.” After receiving his professional training nearly a decade ago, Shaunn worked for years in larger salons in Vancouver, building his client list and perfecting his craft. Shaunn says he’s always wanted to open something like Big Joy, and couldn’t be happier with how things are going so far. “It’s at a really nice place right now,” he says with a confident smile. “There is always a new fun neighbourhood, you know, but I really like it here. Our friend just opened up a tattoo shop down the street, and I love Jackalope’s, and another of our friends run Horses Records. It’s still a little more affordable here, people can still do things creatively. Not everything needs to be so perfect and immaculate — it can be more do it yourself.”
That DIY attitude is something that has worked out quite well for Shaunn. The seemingly immaculate salon is quintessentially East Van, with an eclectic mix of vintage furniture and art. “I liked decorating the space myself and just making it work,” he says casually. “It actually all started with a lamp and I went from there,” he laughs. When you speak with Shaunn, there’s a certain humbleness about him you can’t help but pick up on
“Here there is such a variety of people in this neighborhood,” he continues. “There are young people, old people, gay, straight, and everything in between… But then there’s the older shops that have been here since the beginning. It feels much more human. Sometimes Vancouver feels a little bit too perfect, but Hastings will always Hastings.” Chris started working at the salon just a month ago, and says he feels right at home here. “I grew up at Kingsway and Nanaimo, and when people think of East Van, I think people think of this area,” he says. “Things are built with sustainability opposed to cost and renewal. Other parts of the city, things will be built so quickly that it goes out of fashion as fast. Whereas this area, things stay. A lot of the houses around here are heritage houses. It’s real.”