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Barbershop confidential: Nelson's Man Cave offers more than just haircuts

Owner Shawn “Stormy” Stormann (left) and nurse partner Carter Stormann by the entrance to the new Caveman Health pod inside the barbershop.

In Nelson, there’s a place where modern “cavemen” can go to be groomed, chill out to music, and find someone to tell their troubles to.

It’s been seven years since Shawn “Stormy” Stormann opened his Nelson barbershop Stormy’s Man Cave. During that time, he’s developed a loyal clientele who’ve followed him twice to new premises, for the buzz not just of his clippers but also the upbeat vibe.

Located in New York loft-style premises in the city centre, the Cave has become a community space where some customers just come to hang out. The foosball and pool tables have been donated by clients whose wives or partners have banished them from the house, and the chess set and 1950s music from the juke box are popular with those waiting their turn. Now Stormy and his nurse partner Carter Stormann are making a positive impact on their community’s wellbeing, too.

Carter takes a blood-pressure reading. “Men have worse outcomes than women because they don’t tend to get regular health checks or make appointments with their doctor if something’s awry,” he says.

The idea for Caveman Health evolved as Stormy found customers would often open up to him while they were being shorn, but he didn’t have any point of contact for those who needed follow-up help or support.

“People disclose all kinds of things to barbers,” he says. “We wanted to build bridges for guys not addressing things on their own. Barbers aren’t health practitioners, nor do we want to be, and while we’re happy to be an ear, I knew having somebody on hand to refer guys to would be really beneficial.”

The couple – who relocated to Nelson from Maine, USA, 14 years ago – began talking about Carter running a free walk-in men’s health clinic at the barbershop. When the devastating news reached them that a client had committed suicide, it was the spur they needed.

A wall of windows spills light into the loft space of Stormy's Man Cave as barber Kyle Crittenden styles regular customer Sam.

In May, they relocated all six studded-leather barber chairs, including an original 1800s Hercules, to new premises. There, Carter fabricated a pod from recycled pallets and doors to create a “health cave” with three quarter-height walls that give privacy but still allow the atmosphere to permeate. It’s been a resounding success.

“I wanted a space that wasn’t clinical, where blokes would feel comfortable. More like a shed – just one where you have conversations about health,” explains Carter, who is soon to complete a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner, giving him scope closer to that of a GP.  “Men have worse outcomes than women because they don’t tend to get regular health checks or make appointments with their doctor if something’s awry. There’s only so much I can do in a barbershop, but it’s about starting conversations and supporting guys into getting the resources and assessments they need.”

Waiting customers can relax with some games before their turn in the barber chair.

Other clients have offered help for “cavemen” in the form of free gym memberships, health product samples, and discounted services. “It’s surprising the number of people who disappear in for a blood pressure check and then reappear 45 minutes later having discussed all manner of other issues troubling them,” says Stormy. “It’s about breaking down the barriers – whether that’s the expense of GP appointments or the staunchness of the ‘She’ll be right’ attitude.”

*Caveman Health is open on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm, no appointment necessary. To contribute to Caveman Health or find out more, email cavemanhealth@yahoo.com.

This article was first published in the November 2018 issue of North & South.

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