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Jonathan J. Rivera, Barber Jon’s World Famous Barber Shop/Museum of Curiosities and Oddities

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About the Artist/Site

Jonathan Rivera was born and raised in San Francisco; in his senior year of high school he joined the U.S. Marines, and served from 1982-1985. Following his military service, he went to barber college in San Francisco, and also indulged various other interests by working as a butcher, framer, sideshow performer, motivational speaker, and “all around nice guy.” Around 1993 he met his future wife, and he moved out to El Dorado Hills, in the hills around Folsom Lake east of California’s capital, Sacramento. “Barber Jon” opened the World Famous Barber Shop on the outskirts of El Dorado Hills in 1995, and from the beginning he envisioned the shop as a community gathering place, “where everyone is welcome, and when they leave, they can’t wait to come back.” Barber Jon’s shop, it is written, “is a place where you hear your name called when you come through the door.”

The entire shop area is filled with collections of unique and sometimes enigmatic objects…so filled, in fact, that it is almost difficult to focus on the six barber stations between the colorful objects set off against the mirrored and painted walls. Some are reminiscent of standard roadside attractions – shrunken heads, an “authentic” jackalope, and a Fiji mermaid; but there are also historical artifacts and photographs, sports memorabilia, plane models (many hung from the ceiling), and a collection of straight-edge razors dating back to the 1700s. Although most of these materials belong to Barber Jon, he also solicits curiosities on loan, and will display them with care.

Rivera has installed a collection of curiosities in the den in his home as well, but the barber shop is the only public space where one can view his installations. Not having seen other collections similarly installed, his inspiration, instead, was P.T. Barnum. Rivera carries on the sideshow tradition with his talents for eating glass light bulbs, among other skills; he performs these feats in the barber shop.

A gregarious and caring member of the community who has raised funds to support a variety of local charities, Rivera, his clients, and neighbors were shocked by a burglary early on the morning of January 21, 2015. The thieves took barber’s tools as well as numerous collection items and cash, the total valued at some $14000. The barber community rallied around him, offering to help him replace his tools, and Rivera held a cut-a-thon for locals to raise funds to replace the important items. Then, within two weeks, most of the rare items stolen from the shop were mysteriously returned, left in bags behind the shop. Because clients who came to the cut-a-thon refused to take back their donations, Rivera has indicated that he will donate most of the proceeds to local charities, and he has replaced his rare and wonderful oddities in their original locations.

~Jo Farb Hernández





Map and site information

381 Green Valley Road
El Dorado Hills, California, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 38.703477 / -121.103506

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