A cut above: Keeping it all in the family

“I’ve been in the same spot since 1983,” 71 year-old Carlton Collins said proudly. He was talking about the barbershop he owns at 309 S. Crouse Ave. “It makes it easier on my customers. They know I’ll always be here.”
The two-story wood frame structure seems a bit isolated and if you did not know, you might take it for someone’s residence rather than a business. But if you look closely, a sign will tell you that Collins’ Barbershop is open.
“I started being a barber years ago,” Collins said, in “1964. My dad used to cut hair, but wasn’t a real barber. He gave me a mountain of experience though, not just to barber, but dealing with people fairly.”
Doing the best job you can and being honest with people goes a long way in the barber business, according to Collins. “This is how I’ve tried to raise my children.”
Climbing up the concrete steps into Collins’ Barbershop you may feel you have passed through a time zone. Pictures of haircut styles cover the walls, with prices posted and mirrors taking up most of the space. Your ears fill with the buzzing of clippers, the chatter of customers waiting their turn at one of the six barber chairs, and the sound from a television set in the corner. Stacks of magazines cover a table next to a half-filled coffee maker as hair piles up on the floor.

Two of Collins’ three sons work with their father, Eric and Charleston. Both have been with him in the shop for over 20 years. The third son, Terrence, also a veteran of the shop has since retired.

“I really didn’t want to be a barber,” Eric said. “But being out of work with a family is a difficult place to be. Dad sent me to barber school, and the rest is history.”
“I enjoy cutting,” said Charleston. “It keeps you busy and keeps everything in the family.”

Even Collins’s grandchildren are involved, sweeping the hair off the floor and cleaning the bathroom, while pausing to listen to the several wide-ranging conversations going on at once.

“Now you know he don’t know what he’s doing,” a man called across the room, referring to a teen who has joined the army. “Those boys need to come home.”

Collins’ wife of 53 years, Juanita, runs a beauty salon on the second floor of the building with her daughter-in-law Mary, Charleston’s wife. “We do perms, cuts, color, you name it,” said Mary, who works five days a week, with Sunday and Monday off.

A quick poll of customers finds satisfaction with the haircuts, but the range of conversation is the real deal. “There’s a moral fiber, here,” one said. “It feels like family.”

Carlton Collins isn’t talking about retiring. But he knows the day will come when he can no longer stand and do the work in the barbershop. When that day comes he plans on passing it down, keeping it the family as long as he can.