Hope there's a wait when you arrive for your haircut at Off The Top in Issaquah. A long wait. You'll need time to check out the sports memorabilia...

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Hope there’s a wait when you arrive for your haircut at Off The Top in Issaquah. A long wait.

You’ll need time to check out the sports memorabilia decorating the walls of Kenny Mines’ barbershop, which he has run for a year and a half at 240 N.W. Gilman Blvd., under the clock tower in Gilman Station in Gilman Village.

You’ll also need more time to practice your golf putts.

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Mines’ shop contains a 22-foot-long putting green. Hanging on the wall by the artificial turf are two golf bags full of old clubs. There’s a mural of a tree — with a golf club wrapped around a branch. A photograph of Tiger Woods hangs near the clock that has golf balls for the hours.

Think you’re a good golfer? Buy a $5 ticket, and if you can sink your putt in two tries, you win a haircut.

Like football better than golf?

Check out Jim Zorn’s Seahawks helmet and an autographed team ball from the 1980s. Carefully read the inscription on former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka’s autographed picture (to the Off the Top shop and Kenny). Make certain he has a cap from your favorite football team.

If you still root for your alma mater, college hats hang above the refreshment table. If your alma mater is missing, Mines accepts donations.


Kenny Mines, surrounded by treasured sports memorabilia and wall-to-wall ESPN in his Issaquah shop, cuts a client’s hair. Mines says, “I wanted a place for the guys, where we didn’t have to put on a gown.”

Another section is devoted to baseball and contains, among other things, a plaque with an autographed Ken Griffey Jr. ball, a giant baseball sculpture signed by several celebrities and, near the cash register, a small tribute to the old Negro Baseball League.

On the parquet floor in the cutting area is the outline of a key from a basketball court. Look up. There’s a small basketball hoop with a ball, waiting for action.

Name a sport and Mines can talk it. Or wear it. “I wanted to create an old-style barbershop, where dads and sons could hang out together,” said the 50-year-old Mines. “I’m trying to make it like a sports hall of fame, where you can get a great haircut at the same time.”

Mines has been a licensed barber for 26 years, so he has watched as trends sent many men to quick-clip chain salons instead of their local barbers. While he has nothing against the chains, he said he thought men were missing some of the bonding done in traditional barbershops, where they could kick back, talk sports and scratch where it itches.

“I wanted a place for the guys, where we didn’t have to put on a gown,” he said.

Mines’ desire to add old-fashioned touches extend to more than the sports memorabilia. There’s an old stoplight in the front window of his shop. The décor includes three barber chairs: a modern one that rarely gets used and two antique chairs. One from the 1930s or 1940s looks Art Deco and has removable metal cups in the arms. The other, a black-and-white metal beauty, he found at a garage sale for $100.

“After I bought it, I found out it had been used in an Issaquah barbershop, so it has local history,” he said.

The fun atmosphere sometimes gets serious. Mines can be brutally honest.

He spent decades in and out of the prison system. Twenty-four years ago, in 1981, while he was out of prison on work release, he stabbed a man to death in a lovers’ triangle in White Center. He was convicted of second-degree murder and of being a habitual criminal.

Mines was last released four years ago. He has no intention of going back. And he openly shares his experiences.

Now he counsels rebellious youth while trimming their hair. He tells them that it isn’t cool to get high, or to drink, and it isn’t cool to be locked up. “The walk I took to get to this level is not the prettiest walk,” he said. “I can’t change anything in the past, but I can make good choices about my future and my life today.”

In prison, Mines watched other convicts return time after time. He made up his mind he wouldn’t play that game. His last time in, he promised himself that he would not leave with an attitude that everyone was against him.

“You have to be willing to help yourself,” he said.

He picked up two good things in prison: religion and barbering.

“I learned to give good haircuts when I was in prison,” he said. “You can say I practiced on a captive audience.”

Since his release, Mines has found acceptance. He works hard, volunteers with the Knights of Columbus and uses his skills to help the community. Before Christmas, he gave free haircuts to homeless people at Tent City 4 on the Eastside. He regularly visits assisted-living facilities, where he cuts men’s hair and talks about guy stuff with them.

About the only time he doesn’t carry his hair-cutting gear, he said, is when he goes to family gatherings. “I’ve got 57 nephews and nieces,” he said.

“If I started giving them haircuts, I’d never get done.”

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com