73°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Las Vegas barbershop pays tribute to grandfather, classic times

Speakeasy Barbershop LV at the El Cortez isn’t just a business. It’s a time machine.

For that, thank the two-chair shop’s decor, heavy on an old Vegas vibe, its menu of services, which includes such classics as hot towel, straight-razor shaves and facials — and most of all, owner Andres Dominguez and his grandfather.

Dominguez’s grandfather, Julian Madrid, ran the tiny shop at the end of a second-floor hallway for more than 30 years. As a kid, every few weeks, Dominguez would spend the day there while his grandfather worked, sweeping up after customers, bonding with his grandfather and getting a glimpse into a world that, at the time, seemed downright exotic.

Dominguez took over the shop in December. Speakeasy Barbershop LV has been open officially for two weeks now, and Dominguez sees every cut and every shave he does as a tribute to his grandfather, who passed away in 2010.

Dominguez, 26, is gregarious and friendly, open and talkative, the kind of guy you’d look forward to seeing every few weeks when the mane becomes a bit too shaggy.

“I’m a talker,” he says. “I love talking to people, I love learning about them and I love sharing experiences, and I don’t care what your background is, I don’t care where you’re from or your political views.”

He motions toward a bottle of water on a table and laughs. “And if no one’s around me, I’m talking to that bottle of water.”

A handshake and a blessing

Julian Madrid started at the El Cortez barbershop in 1974. As the story goes, Madrid’s deal with then-owner Jackie Gaughan was predicated on nothing more than a handshake and Gaughan’s blessing to “go out and make a million.”

Dominguez figures he was about 5 when he started spending days there with his grandfather.

“Grandpa used to pay me $2 to cut my hair,” Dominguez recalls, laughing. “So I was a great businessman from the beginning.”

As Madrid’s first-born grandchild, “I was really close with my grandpa,” Dominguez says. “I’d sweep the floors — but at that age you’re not cleaning anything at all — and at the end of the day, grandpa would check my work, which really meant he’d clean the barber shop up.

“Then, he had a vending machine there, with Yoo-hoos and snacks he’d open up and give me whatever I wanted to drink from it.

“I’d see guys reading the paper and magazines and just listen to conversations they’d have,” Dominguez says. “Of course, I was young and I didn’t know what they were talking about.”

After graduating from Las Vegas High School, Dominguez went to college for a while and worked a few jobs, but felt enthusiastic about none of it. During his sophomore year in high school, Dominguez — thanks, he’s sure, to his grandfather’s influence — had begun to think about pursuing a career as a barber.

He enrolled in barber college and, after graduation, learned the art of barbering while working at EastSide Cutters Barbershop, where his uncle, Paul Madrid, worked and is a co-owner. Dominguez followed that up with a dive into luxury barbering during a stint at The Art of Shaving at Caesars Palace.

A place to relax

In November, he learned that the barbershop at the El Cortez had closed. Dominguez, who always had planned to someday open his own shop, went to the El Cortez on a day off — dressed in jeans, Jordans, a T-shirt and backwards ball cap — hoping for nothing more than maybe finding a contact from whom he could inquire about the shop.

But the simple fact-finding mission turned serious when everybody he talked to would, when learning Dominguez is Julian Madrid’s grandson, send Dominguez to the next highest corporate higher-up.

Long story short: Dominguez says he ended up meeting that very day with El Cortez owner Ken Epstein, who knew and respected his grandfather and, because of that, was happy to meet his grandson.

“I was born and raised in Vegas and I’ve heard stories about what Vegas used to be like,” Dominguez says. “I was always told about how one’s word was everything and for a moment I got to witness what Las Vegas was like, because Mr. Epstein took time to meet out of respect for who my grandfather was. Just to see that level of respect was amazing, and I’m forever grateful.”

Dominguez offers clients a line of services from a haircut ($35 for “traditional,” which includes a shampoo, condition, blow-dry and style to $45 for a “Speakeasy,” which includes all of that plus a scalp therapy treatment, head massage and hot towel wrap) to hot-towel straight-razor shaves, beard trims, facials and scalp therapy. More than that, it’s infused by the spirit of Julian Madrid, whose original cash register, complete with $2 bill and, for some reason, a bullet, are on display.

“For me, a barbershop is where you come to let loose and really open up,” Dominguez says. “If you’re married, you’re a husband. That’s your role. If you’re a man at work, you have a job that needs to be done. Back at home, you have children, you’re a dad, you make stuff work.

“When you’re in a barbershop, to me it’s the only place you can come and get off your feet and vent just whatever emotions are inside. It’s a place where you can really relax, and I love that.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST