Sunday, February 20, 2022

End of a Local Era

 My barber has closed his shop.  It's the end of a 63-year era here in my little town.  It's an example of what's happening everywhere.

I've been going to Tim's shop for about 20 years.  He ran a one-man barbershop that his father established 63 years ago.  It was very much a Norman Rockwell place.  It was a small storefront in a 100-year-old string of buildings on Main Street in Mars Hill.  There was a barber pole out front, of course, and the "Mars Hill Barbershop" was hand-painted on the front window.  Inside, there were two barber chairs, although one of them hadn't been used in all the time I went there, and looked like it hadn't been used for a few decades prior to that.  His German Shepherd was the welcoming committee and receptionist.  If you got on the dog's good side, you were good forever, and everybody got on the dog's good side as long as you liked dogs.  

Tim knew everybody in a 10-mile radius.  He'd grown up in Mars Hill and worked alongside his father in the shop until the older man retired.  Tim took it over and made no changes whatsoever.  Well, except that might have been when it went from a 2-chair operation to a 1-chair.  Tim is very funny and very personable.  If you want to know what's going on in the neighborhood, you went to get a haircut at Tim's.  You'd sit in the ancient waiting chairs, along with however many other guys were there, and joined in the conversation.  Everybody pitched in.  It might be about the mystery construction project down by the interstate, or Jimmy Smith's herd of cows needing haybales, or Frank's parents in the local nursing home (an X-rated and hilarious discussion if there ever was one).  There was no sitting there and reading magazines, even though there were plenty, all from ten years ago.  

But the number of people going to Tim's has been slowly dropping for years.  Older guys died off and fewer younger ones came.  Almost all the college boys went to styling salons down in Weaverville or Asheville.  Tim got a part-time job at a big-box store to help pay the bills.  As the barber business slowed, he increased his hours at the big-box.  And this year, when the rent went up significantly, he threw in the towel and retired.  And 63 years of barbering in Mars Hill came to an end.

I knew it was coming, but last week I went in to get a haircut and the store wasn't there anymore.  Everything inside was gone, along with the barber pole and bench outside.  A sign on the window announced the closure.  It was so sad to see.  So I made an appointment at a place down in Weaverville.  It's a franchise operation, brightly lit, lots of chairs and ladies cutting hair.  Everybody waiting was staring at their phones and nobody was talking.  Well, I was, anyway, once I got in the chair, and the lady cutting my hair seemed to be glad to have somebody to talk to.  And, of course, it was a decent haircut at a decent price.

So another old neighborly business is gone, replaced by an anonymous franchise operation.  Progress?  No.

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