Member Profile

For Community,
For Family


By Michelle Simone

Below is the article from the July/August 2018 issue of California Freemason. Read the full issue here. 

Travis Sweeney is the owner of the San Mateo Zoo barbershop in San Mateo, California. He’s a husband, father and stepfather to three children, and mentor. He’s also a four-year Mason at Peninsula Lodge No. 168 and a walking testament to embodying Masonic values.

After an early career as a civil servant in homeless outreach, Sweeney came to his current profession through a vision of his grandfather, who once owned a family haircutting business. At the San Mateo Zoo, Sweeney aims to mirror the personality of his grandfather’s shop as a gathering place for family and community. Clients young and old seek the Zoo’s legendary fades and shaves. Fathers and sons come in together. High school students gather on benches outside. And, at Christmastime, the shop welcomes pro-bono clients from Gatepath, an organization that serves people with special needs and developmental disabilities.

Sweeney, whose daughter, Emerson, has special needs, is acutely aware of the challenges that haircuts can pose. People with special needs are often sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, and vibrations. Being touched by strangers requires extraordinary trust. During the Zoo’s holiday event, Sweeney and his colleagues took all these factors into consideration and created an atmosphere of acceptance, celebration, and warmth. Their efforts did not go unnoticed – as was evidenced by the influx of community members who attended the event, offering toys, blankets, and friendship to the Zoo’s special clients.

As Sweeney notes, there was another benefit, too: “Families had a chance to talk about their challenges and strengths, an opportunity to make connections. To find other parents who are supporting kids in similar situations – to build a community – is important,” he says. But perhaps the true highlight came from the clients themselves. “The smiles on the children’s faces were just amazing.”

Web Extra: In 2017, Bro. Sweeney was recognized by Brawny Towels in their “Giants Among Us” campaign. Watch the video:

Angela DeCenzo