The Yankee Clipper has the name of a baseball player, the décor of a nautical museum and the music of a 1950s diner all tucked inside an Old West-inspired building.
The music comes from owner and barber Nita Garnier’s childhood. The memorabilia include things she’s collected during her life, but most of it came from her customers.
Joe DiMaggio and Rita Hayworth smile down at antique barber paraphernalia displayed among her nautical knickknacks. Along with the vintage brushes, cups and razors, there are the classic barber chairs: a 1913 Theo Koch and a mid-1940s Belmont.
But outside her shop, Garnier makes her identity quite clear.
She calls what she posts in her shop windows “public service announcements” — a variety of anti-COVID and anti-mask cartoons and messages.
“I feel like people need to speak for the truth. Our voice is very important,” Garnier said about her public-facing expression of free speech.
Garnier was born in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio State Barber College. She had an uncle in Port Orchard who told her what a wonderful area he lived in and convinced Garnier to consider moving.
In 2004, Garnier sent out 11 resumes to local barber shops and was hired in Gig Harbor.
One day while sightseeing on the KP, Garnier got lost, giving her time to appreciate the beauty of the peninsula.
“I fell in love with the area,” she said.
Garnier opened the Yankee Clipper in 2006, but now she’s calling it quits after cutting hair for more than 40 years. She is selling her shop and moving to Tennessee with her husband to retire later this fall.
“We’ll miss the beauty of this area, but we won’t miss the bureaucracy.”
Being an outspoken member of the Key Peninsula business community has been both good and bad for The Yankee Clipper. Garnier feels like she’s gained more customers than she’s lost over the years due to her voice getting louder.
“I’ve had a lot more pushback (over the summer),” she said. “No one has paid attention until recently. I have people who pop in to tell me they love my signs, while others open my door to scream obscenities at me. Look, it’s just my opinion and my way of reaching people.”
Garnier thinks about 85% of her clients agree with her political beliefs, while the 15% who don’t at least “recognize a good haircut when they see one.”
After moving to Washington, she wasn’t really into politics when she opened up The Yankee Clipper. As the years passed, she got more and more involved. Now, it is politics that is essentially driving her away from the state.
“We’ve been debating leaving the state for the last two years,” Garnier said. The final straw for her was an extremely low turnout during the primary elections in August. “I really thought more people cared.”
She hopes to sell The Yankee Clipper as-is, with all of the nautical antiques included. Some of those items she bought from customers, while others were given to her. Garnier said moving here from the Midwest, she never considered doing a nautical theme, but she’s glad customers talked her into it. If she can’t find a buyer before she moves, she’ll look to sell some of the higher-priced antiques individually.
“I’ve made wonderful friends and have great customers. I’ve had quite a few customers get emotional. Some of it is probably wondering who is going to cut their hair next, but I think some people just like me, too,” she said.
Garnier’s final cut will be Saturday, October 29, and she is inviting the community in for a slice of cake and other goodies to celebrate. She arranged for the very first person to get their haircut at The Yankee Clipper in 2006 to get the very last one that day.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS