A breath of fresh air for Whitehorse’s hair scene

Tony Ciprani sits in a black leather salon chair, in front of his younger, bespectacled, cartoon likeness on the storefront window. “That’s when I used to have hair,” he says.

Tony Ciprani sits in a black leather salon chair, in front of his younger, bespectacled, cartoon likeness on the storefront window. “That’s when I used to have hair,” he says. The caricature has thick black locks; Ciprani has close-cropped hair and a salt-and-pepper beard.

He points to the tattoos on the cartoon’s arms, then rolls up his sleeves to reveal his own – one for his father, one for a friend who died of breast cancer, one for his favourite hairdressing student.

Inked on the fingers of his right hand are a tiny pair of scissors, a comb, a razor and a barber’s pole.

“I’ve always cut hair,” he says. “It’s in my blood.”

Ciprani opened The Shed, a hair salon on Second Avenue, in May. He was born in Italy, grew up in Williams Lake, B.C., and Vancouver and moved to Whitehorse nine years ago.

Another tattoo, on his shoulder, of a spider web and black widow, represents the journey Ciprani has taken to get here, from the serious disease he nearly died from to a successful double-lung transplant.

The widow signifies living again, he says.

Ciprani is someone you feel comfortable around right away. He’s gregarious, chatting a mile a minute, with no filter, making jokes and swearing.

The name may be unassuming, but inside, The Shed is cool, with wood floors, rustic wood walls, shelves of Italian hair products and a vintage cash register. Azealia Banks and Beyonce songs play over the sound of traffic rushing along Second.

Ciprani has always wanted his own salon. He grew up curling his sister’s hair. “She would say, ‘Listen. You’re my brother and I don’t have a sister, so this is your job,’” he says.

He graduated high school in Williams Lake and got a job at the local mill. He wasn’t interested in further education.

“I wanted to smoke pot and party. What else do you do? You work at the mill, you make some money, you party, you buy a case of beer.

“Back then, you really didn’t want to admit you were going to be a hairdresser. I wasn’t out yet. It was hard for me to say, yeah, I want to cut hair.”

His parents weren’t about to let him party away his youth. They bought him a ticket to Italy. He went to hair school, and when he came back to Canada after the year-long program, he worked at a salon in Williams Lake. Then he moved to Vancouver and opened his own.

When Ciprani met his would-be partner, Yukoner Carson Schiffkorn, who runs the Inn on the Lake, he moved north with him. Out at their home on Marsh Lake, Ciprani cut hair, his clients driving out from the city to see him.

Then Ciprani got sick. He loved cycling, and when he started feeling weak and short of breath, he knew something was wrong.

Ciprani was diagnosed with histiocytosis X, a lung disease that caused secondary pulmonary hypertension – pressure to his heart. With the lungs under stress, incapable of breathing properly, the heart enlarges. Eventually, that can lead to a heart attack.

He travelled to Vancouver regularly for appointments. Things worsened so much that he needed oxygen tanks. He’d try to push himself and not rely on them. “It’s denial,” he says. “You’re just in denial.”

When Ciprani went to the grocery store, if he couldn’t find a parking spot right up front, he’d drive away.

“When you’re not healthy, you have to plan an escape route,” he says. “You’ve got to know where everything is in the grocery store, because you’ve only the energy to go up to that produce, get it, get to the line and figure out areas where you can stop and breathe where everybody’s not seeing you. I wouldn’t walk in with my oxygen tank. I was embarrassed of that.”

Ciprani was put on the lung-transplant list, knowing that what could save him may come within a day or a year. In March 2012, he and Schiffkorn were driving back from a medical appointment in Vancouver. Ciprani wasn’t allowed to fly anymore – his body couldn’t handle it.

They blew a tire outside of Watson Lake, and checked into a local hotel.

“I was thinking, this is not where I want to die,” Ciprani says. “This can’t happen.”

He’d been given a pager that was supposed to go off when a pair of lungs became available, but it didn’t work in Watson Lake.

Schiffkorn was at the gas station in town when the attendant held up the phone and said, “The call is for you.”

Unable to reach him, doctors had contacted Schiffkorn’s sister in California, who had contacted Ciprani and Schiffkorn’s mothers. They called the Inn on the Lake, and an employee called the Watson Lake gas station.

Ciprani was at the hotel when Schiffkorn returned.

“I’ve got two things to tell you,” he cried. “I got a set of tires and you got your lungs!”

The transplant was a success. That was four years ago. Ciprani says he feels like he’s 21 again. He bikes and doesn’t get winded.

“We could go for a hike and I could go up that mountain – I’d probably be a little sluggish right now because I ate a bunch of nachos yesterday – but it would be no problem.”

Coming so close to death made Ciprani rethink his life.

“I woke up on March 31, (2012) and I thought, if I die today, what is my legacy going to be? Tony got a double lung transplant and trims bangs?”

He wanted his own salon. He says he didn’t think about the business side of things – competition from other salons in town, or whether he’d be successful.

“I just was creating a place for me,” he says. “I struggled with that. I thought, is this selfish? What are people going to think of me? Just Tony. I thought that was a bit arrogant. But I thought, oh well, it’s my life. I have to do it. I’m very lucky.”

The day he opened, 56 people walked in to check the place out. Open seven days a week, The Shed has been so busy since that Ciprani has hired three employees, including a barber, and plans to hire two more.

He books appointments and accepts walk-ins.

“It honestly blows us away,” Ciprani says. “We high-five each other often in here.”

From the outside, The Shed looks like a barber shop, and Ciprani likes it that way.

“My whole life, I’ve always been judged by the cover, like everybody is. So I wanted the outside to not reflect the inside.”

For more information, visit thehairshed.ca or call 689-7433.

Contact Rhiannon Russell at

rhiannon.russell@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Inside the courtroom in Whitehorse, Chief Electoral Officer Max Harvey, Vuntut Gwitchin returning officer Renee Charlie and Supreme Court Judge Suzanne Duncan open the box containing the names of the tied candidates. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Annie Blake elected as MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin after name draw

“I’m still feeling shocked that my name was drawn, I feel overwhelmed.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 case confirmed in rural Yukon community

An exposure notification has been issued for Andrea’s Restaurant in Watson Lake

Food trucks gather on Steele Street between Front and Second for the annual Street Eats Festival in Whitehorse on August 12, 2019. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News file)
May 1 could mark the start of the 2021 food truck season

Lottery for downtown sites set for April 28

Wyatt's World
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for April 16, 2021.… Continue reading

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is taking on the first all-woman expedition to Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team among mountaineers heading to Kluane National Park

One team will be exploring Mt. Logan while a second all-woman team aims for Mt. Lucania summit

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Whitehorse International Airport in Whitehorse on May 6, 2020.
NAV CANADA suspends review for Whitehorse airport traffic control

NAV CANADA announced on April 15 that it is no longer considering… Continue reading

A bulldozer levels piles of garbage at the Whitehorse landfill in January 2012. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Rural dump closures and tipping fees raise concern from small communities

The government has said the measures are a cost-cutting necessity

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: Hands of Hope, the quilt of poppies

Toilets are important Ed. note: Hands of Hope is a Whitehorse-based non-profit… Continue reading

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Most Read