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Final cut
Barber has half century of hair-raising memories
Published Wednesday, August 1, 2012 2:27 pm
by Ebony Shamberger

After 50 years of trimming, cutting and snipping, Walter Taylor Jr. is unplugging his clippers and closing shop.

video by Ebony Shamberger

His last day – and Taylor’s Barber Shop’s – is Aug. 18.

Tyron Ervin, who’s worked at Taylor’s for 17 years, will take over as owner under a new name.

“I spent more time with Mr. Taylor in here over the years than I have with my own father,” said Ervin. “I learned more from (Taylor and Ed Bobbitt, who’s worked there for 42 years) than my own father – not putting him down. I grew up in here, really.”

From then on, a reminder of the times at Taylor’s will be from still images saved in a scrapbook he stores at the foot of his stand. It tells stories from the day he opened the shop on Beatties Ford Road in 1962 to the reopening off Albemarle Road in 1994 to today.

“I’ve spent 80 percent of my time in the shop, 20 percent at home. I have grandkids now and family that I can’t really spend a lot of time with, so I think it’s time for me to do that,” said Taylor, 70. “In 50 years, I’ve missed out on stuff.”    

Taylor also said he’d rather not sign a three-year lease to the building’s new owners because he is not likely to get a return on his earnings. Taylor is not ready to retire, but feels like having three generations of clientele speaks for itself. He’s done enough.

And to think, it all started with his dad encouraging him to open a shop at the age of 20.

At the time, his father, Walter Sr., and uncles owned a shop on Oaklawn Avenue and Taylor had been working for seven months. However, when a spot at the University Park Shopping Center on Beatties Ford Road became available, he paid for the shop and became his own boss.

Some decades later, Taylor Jr. is proud to say that he and his father combined have been in the business for more than a century.

“(When) I started out I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to be a barber … but I enjoyed it and it was pretty profitable, so I stayed in it,” Taylor said. “This business has really been rewarding. I don’t want to leave.”

Taylor will take his 7-foot-tall plant and six styling chairs. But he will be leaving his five barbers a long list of clients that include Mayor Anthony Foxx, former mayor Harvey Gantt, Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones and U.S. Rep. Melvin Watt.

Taylor will be missed by regular customers like Joseph Green, 75, who has been coming to the shop since the beginning.

“When you’ve allowed a person to cut your hair for 50 years, it’s kind of a personal thing,” he said. “In fact, I don’t know where I’m going to go now.”

Green said he has always considered Taylor’s a friendly, reputable place where he’s never had to worry about hearing profanity or loud noise. Therefore, when the location changed Green didn’t have a problem driving the extra miles.

“I enjoyed the camaraderie and I enjoyed the service he gave and I enjoyed how he cut my hair,” said Green.

Despite the years he’s at the shop, Taylor said his most fond memories come from “the closeness I have with most of my clients, almost all of them.”
He is especially concerned about the younger customers.

“You see the young guys that’s around here now,” he said, directing his attention to a corner. “I have a lot of them that’s been coming in lately that’s real upset because we are going to close the shop. They say this is the only place they can come, rather than some of the other shops, where they can get real positive feedback so they just enjoy coming in here. There’s not a lot of mess going on – no hip-hop be-bop, no rap music – it’s just all wholesome conversation.”

Even for first-time customers, from the looks of the walls you can tell Taylor is a no-tolerance type of guy. Instead of being greeted with centerfold spreads of women, the walls are lined with framed pictures of Johnson C. Smith, Winston-Salem State and N.C. Central universities.

It is an atmosphere Taylor hopes will remain when the shop reopens. Though he’s leaving his second home, Taylor may make home visits for the disabled and sick and shut-in.  That way, he’ll be able to take his services to those who need it most.

“A barbershop is a community,” he said. “It’s a place where people can come not just for haircuts, but for wholesome conversations (and) fun.”

There will be a customer appreciation gathering on August 11 at 5 p.m.


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