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Barber shops on upswing

As men’s styles changed, the unisex craze that swept across America 25 years ago caused barbering and barbershops to almost disappear from mainstream America.
Men’s choices became limited to salons that were devoid of everything they enjoyed about getting a haircut: Interesting conversation and personal relationships were replaced by cold plastic seats, unpleasant chemical smells, and awkward periods of silence because of women in the room.
But times, they are changing.
After 30 years of decline, barbering and barbershops are making a comeback. In fact, barbershops are on the rise and growing faster than beauty salons.
More and more, men have specific requirements regarding personal grooming and look beyond the discount chains and unisex salons.
Many now seek the warm, personal atmosphere of a barbershop, as well as the feeling of camaraderie found in old barber shops.
In Florida, a 25-year female master barber had moved from New York, to set up an old fashioned barber shop in Broward County. On her website, she claims that her goal was to step back in time and re-establish the traditional barbershop for men.
She named her business simply The Old Fashioned Barbershop, a real barbershop, without the gimmicks of most men’s haircut establishments or the feminine environment of a hair salon.
In Pulaski, Steve Swecker, owner of OK Barbershop, that’s housed in a 600-square-foot building on 321 E. Main St. in town, can vouch for the renewed vigor in this haircutting industry.
He said he can’t remember when his business was ever down, because it’s always been brisk.
Three chairs were buzzing and humming at full speed and more than half a dozen customers were waiting on the side during the visits on Thursday and again the following Monday, despite the frigid temperatures.
“I’ve been barbering for 39 years,” Swecker related, “and it’s always been good.” He recalled that the business was formerly located across the street from the Post Office and soon outgrew it.
In 1997, OK Barbershop moved to its present location that is readily accessible from the main street and has a much larger parking lot.
Swecker says that his clientele is a mix of the young and the old. And among the list of long-time patrons is Guy Dalton, a musician who lives in Austinville.
“Steve’s been cutting my hair for thirty years,” said Dalton. He comes to OK Barbershop every three to four weeks to get his silvery hair and beard trimmed by Swecker. “It’s a one-stop barbershop,” he added with a laugh.
At the conclusion of every haircut and the patron is about the leave, Swecker always says, “We appreciate you, Sir. Please, come back.”
Chair No. 2 is manned by Richard Alexander, a former machinist, who just started barbering at OK since April of 2009 after completing barber school. He says Swecker asked him to help out when the other barber became incapacitated by an injury. He relates how he finished his apprenticeship under Swecker and now loves his job. “I should have done this years ago,” he added.
The youngest of three barbers, Brian Fowler, mans the third chair and his clientele consist mostly of younger men. A barber for 15 years, he’s been with OK for the last 7. He says he’s always known Steve Swecker “since I was a little boy.”
Contacted by phone, the other two barbershops in town could not stop long enough for a phone interview because they were both too busy with customers: Sani-Mode Barber Shop on Washington Avenue (540-980-6991) and Star Barber Shop on 123 W. Main Street. Both claimed to be doing a thriving business.
OK Barbershop’s phone number is (540) 994-0231. All barber shops named here are open every day except Wednesdays and Sundays.
Historical note: Barbers were once regarded as prestigious as doctors and engineers. In fact, these sartorial artisans could, and expected to, also perform minor cosmetic surgery and dentistry (tooth extractions). Hence, the barber pole of red, white and blue: Blue is the background color; red, for blood letting and white, for the bandages.
Swecker says he and the other barbers are limited to wielding their straight razors for shaving; nothing more.

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Barber shops on upswing

As men’s styles changed, the unisex craze that swept across America 25 years ago caused barbering and barbershops to almost disappear from mainstream America.
Men’s choices became limited to salons that were devoid of everything they enjoyed about getting a haircut: Interesting conversation and personal relationships were replaced by cold plastic seats, unpleasant chemical smells, and awkward periods of silence because of women in the room.
But times, they are changing.
After 30 years of decline, barbering and barbershops are making a comeback. In fact, barbershops are on the rise and growing faster than beauty salons.
More and more, men have specific requirements regarding personal grooming and look beyond the discount chains and unisex salons.
Many now seek the warm, personal atmosphere of a barbershop, as well as the feeling of camaraderie found in old barber shops.
In Florida, a 25-year female master barber had moved from New York, to set up an old fashioned barber shop in Broward County. On her website, she claims that her goal was to step back in time and re-establish the traditional barbershop for men.
She named her business simply The Old Fashioned Barbershop, a real barbershop, without the gimmicks of most men’s haircut establishments or the feminine environment of a hair salon.
In Pulaski, Steve Swecker, owner of OK Barbershop, that’s housed in a 600-square-foot building on 321 E. Main St. in town, can vouch for the renewed vigor in this haircutting industry.
He said he can’t remember when his business was ever down, because it’s always been brisk.
Three chairs were buzzing and humming at full speed and more than half a dozen customers were waiting on the side during the visits on Thursday and again the following Monday, despite the frigid temperatures.
“I’ve been barbering for 39 years,” Swecker related, “and it’s always been good.” He recalled that the business was formerly located across the street from the Post Office and soon outgrew it.
In 1997, OK Barbershop moved to its present location that is readily accessible from the main street and has a much larger parking lot.
Swecker says that his clientele is a mix of the young and the old. And among the list of long-time patrons is Guy Dalton, a musician who lives in Austinville.
“Steve’s been cutting my hair for thirty years,” said Dalton. He comes to OK Barbershop every three to four weeks to get his silvery hair and beard trimmed by Swecker. “It’s a one-stop barbershop,” he added with a laugh.
At the conclusion of every haircut and the patron is about the leave, Swecker always says, “We appreciate you, Sir. Please, come back.”
Chair No. 2 is manned by Richard Alexander, a former machinist, who just started barbering at OK since April of 2009 after completing barber school. He says Swecker asked him to help out when the other barber became incapacitated by an injury. He relates how he finished his apprenticeship under Swecker and now loves his job. “I should have done this years ago,” he added.
The youngest of three barbers, Brian Fowler, mans the third chair and his clientele consist mostly of younger men. A barber for 15 years, he’s been with OK for the last 7. He says he’s always known Steve Swecker “since I was a little boy.”
Contacted by phone, the other two barbershops in town could not stop long enough for a phone interview because they were both too busy with customers: Sani-Mode Barber Shop on Washington Avenue (540-980-6991) and Star Barber Shop on 123 W. Main Street. Both claimed to be doing a thriving business.
OK Barbershop’s phone number is (540) 994-0231. All barber shops named here are open every day except Wednesdays and Sundays.
Historical note: Barbers were once regarded as prestigious as doctors and engineers. In fact, these sartorial artisans could, and expected to, also perform minor cosmetic surgery and dentistry (tooth extractions). Hence, the barber pole of red, white and blue: Blue is the background color; red, for blood letting and white, for the bandages.
Swecker says he and the other barbers are limited to wielding their straight razors for shaving; nothing more.

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