South Bay small business
Inset, Tony and Betty Camara, surrounded by their four sons, who helped out at Highland Barber Shop (seen in background), the business Tony founded in National City 50 years ago. Photo credit: Courtesy, SBDC

Highland Barber Shop, the longest running such shop in National City, celebrated 50 years in business Saturday with an all-day party and prizes for the community.

“In our 50th year, we’ve really realized how we’ve become a local landmark and part of our customers’ personal histories growing up in National City,” said Raland Camara, one of the original owners’ four sons. “We are proud to be a part of this community and proof positive that a small business can grow, thrive and have real longevity in National City.”

Highland Barber Shop, at 1830 Highland Ave., spans two generations. Antonio “Tony” Camara opened the shop in 1972 to provide “a great haircut at a great price,” his son shared. This core value, he added, is still at the heart of the family business.

The boys grew up helping with the shop, their first task – often sweeping the floor. Raland has been running the small space, located between Bobby’s Complete Auto Repair and Napa Auto Parts, since his parents’ deaths. He also works as an engineer at Northrop Grumman.

He proudly noted how the business helped put all the Camara brothers through college.

“We’ve been providing quality haircuts for multiple generations,” he remarked. “In fact, it’s common to hear customers talk about how they started getting haircuts as kids and now they’re bringing their own kids. We’re so proud to be a memory-lane landmark as well as part of the National City community.”

In early 2020, Raland’s mother, Betty, found the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through a newspaper article and reached out for assistance due to COVID-19.

“They have been very helpful to me as I took an active role in running the shop with my mom’s health issues during the pandemic,” Raland said about the free service center network in the San Diego region. “They were great advisers in helping me navigate many business-related issues.”

Raland and the business have persevered, working with the center off and on – more so lately in planning the 50th-anniversary celebrations. That includes a partnership with the National City Chamber of Commerce.

“I would advise reaching out to the SBDC because they just might be able to help you in an area that you just might not expect,” Raland said. “I originally reached out for funding support and ended up getting solid advice in terms of running the business.”



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Ellen Bullock