What’s all the buzz in London’s Old East Village?

Over the past few decades, London’s Old East Village has seen a massive amount of urban regeneration from breweries to boutique shops and so much more. But this time around, something a little different is popping up on the eastern Dundas stretch. Brought to you by local business aficionados, Greg Kahnert (WoodOnSteel and Hairpinlegs.ca) and John Parlow (Pulp n’ Press and Rebirth Wellness Centre), Whistling Dick’s Barber Shop is about to become the go-to hangout in OEV, whether you need a new ‘do or just want a drink.

Longtime friends, Kahnert and Parlow teamed up last year and set into motion re-establishing the nostalgic notion of the barber shop as a legitimate social domain.

John Parlow and Greg Kahnert (left to right) of Whistling Dick’s in London, Ontario. Photo by Michael Del Vecchio

“Our vision from day one was to create a space for clients to feel comfortable, at ease, and welcomed,” says Parlow. “We want our customers to visit us in a social capacity – to become regulars, regardless of whether they need a haircut, shave, beard trim or not.”

It’s all in the details…

Upon seeing this space, you’ll understand immediately that so much love, dedication, and a particularly cunning sense of interior design has gone into making Whistling Dick’s what it is. From the choice of chairs, to the artwork collage on the exposed brick walls, every detail exudes class, right down to the very last brass screw.

Could this look more welcoming? We think not. Photo by Nicki Borland

Perhaps most striking of all are the custom, rough-cut pine build outs brought to life by Londoner Matthew Ling of Run the Tools. Ling was one of the key characters in beautifying the space.

The meticulously designed space is a feast for the eyes. It speaks to the innovative approach taken by Parlow and Kahnert when developing the shop, from appearance to practice. Of course, clients have the opportunity to utilize Whistling Dick’s for it’s essential purpose, barber shop services offered for those looking to get a little spruced up.

Like we said, all in the details. Photo by Nicki Borland

What makes Whistling Dicks such a unique establishment is the extra attention to customer comfort. Patrons can order drinks, food (from a menu being developed), or simply hangout and socialize in this restoration hardware-esque masterpiece of a location.

History is key.

Speaking of restoration, historical appreciation is also a very important element of the shop’s creation. Every aspect of Whistling Dick’s is steeped in history, right down to the name itself. Inspired by the story of Richard (Dick) Milburn, a nineteenth-century African American composer and barber, the shop’s name materialized.

History in every aspect, especially the name. Photo by Michael Del Vecchio

Milburn quite literally whistled while he worked when cutting hair in his father’s Philadelphia barber shop. Eventually, he composed “Listen to the Mockingbird,” which went on to become one of the most popular ballads of the era, selling more than 20 million copies of sheet music.

Unfortunately, Milburn, was not credited on the sheet music or paid for the composition but homages to him have been made and Whistling Dick’s is a testament to that. 

We Fusers just couldn’t stop taking photos! Photo by Nicki Borland

At its core, what Parlow and Kahnert have achieved here is the ability to respect and promote the past through restorative design and historical context, while maintaining a forward-thinking and modern business approach. The shop officially opens on Thursday April 12 at 760 Dundas Street and it’s sure to be one hustling, bustling good time.

Stay up to date on all things Whistling Dick’s on Facebook and Instagram.

Feature photo by Michael Del Vecchio


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