GLASGOW – A spot that has been a barbershop in Glasgow nearly 100 years now is closed.
The mother-and-son team of Ruby and Nathan Handley have left what had been Durham's Barber Shop and opened Main Street Barber Shop on Tuesday just a few blocks to the west.
Ruby, 61, said she fell and hurt herself a few years ago – not the first time – on the steps she had come early to clear from snow or ice, and it was around that time she started seriously thinking about the need for a different location, “so I didn't have to come down these steps. And my older customers can't come, and it's just hard to get here.”
Even after a customer finds a parking spot, they've still got to walk at least a little way to get to one of the two sets of steps at 202 W. Main, one of which is especially uneven, at the northwest interior corner of the Glasgow Public Square.
Ruby Handley said it might have been nice for the old location to have made it the 100-year mark as barbershop, but she was doubtful she would have made it there that long herself.
So she thought it was be a good time to build her own place, not just for herself and her customers, but for her family.
“Nathan's my son, and this will give him a place to go barber when I'm long gone, you know,” she said. “He'll have a place – just taking care of my kids, making sure that they'll be taken care of when I'm gone.”
Her “kids” include the grandkids, she said.
She bought the property at the end of 2016 and gradually began the process of getting it done. For example, in spring 2018, the property was rezoned. The clearing began and a building with 1,040 square feet was constructed at 617 W. Main St.
The wide-open room where the barbering takes place and customers wait their turns is almost three times bigger than the much narrower rectangle they had, and it sports a flat-screen TV on the wall.
The wood dressers that had used as work stations didn't go with them. Instead, red, rolling tool chests will serve as the bases for their tools, but the tops of the chests have a special flair added by Nathan in the form of abstract “splashes” of red, white and blue – the same colors as the exterior of the building – that were painted on wood and covered with a clear acrylic finish.
Other special touches around the new place include nearly a dozen actual or representations of barber poles, a whiskey-barrel vanity with a hammered-copper basin and matching mirror and light fixture in the bathroom, and the feature that will perhaps be noticed first by customers when they take their first step into the place: a floor “tiled” with pennies, covered with a clear, thick epoxy that she, Nathan and the grandchildren had placed.
They also have a place in a separate room to do laundry, and it has a kitchen, so they can prepare their own food and perhaps won't have to spend quite so much time having the 20-minute conversation that begins when Nathan leaves to pick up some lunch: “What do you want?” answered by “Whatever you bring back.” or “I don't care; what do you want?”
That was the back-and-forth Friday around lunchtime, when it was still business as usual at the old place, although much of the décor that gave it its personality had already been removed from the walls.
With Ruby working on his hair, Daniel Carrender said his family had moved here from Campbellsville in March.
“This was the first place I came, and there wasn't any sense in going anywhere else,” he said. “This is where everybody told me to go.”
A lot of men who work with his wife suggested Durham's, he said.
Ben, his son who was in Nathan's chair, said, “I like the place.”
“You like coming here?” the dad asked.
“Yeah,” Ben said.
“They do a good job,” the dad said.
“Yeah, they do,” Ben said.
“I've got two other boys, too,” Daniel Carrender said. “And his older brother's got the same hair style he does, and the people before we moved here got ahold of it, and they messed it up really bad, and it took the two of them a couple of haircuts to get it [fixed]. Now, they don't want anybody else to touch them. … We try to come in about once a month.”
Danny Toth, with straight, shoulder-length brown hair , a mustache and a full, somewhat-bushy beard, seated on the long, wooden bench along the wall opposite the work stations awaiting his turn, chimed in, “Yeah, I do, too. You can tell it!”
After the laughter subsided, he said he hadn't been to a barber in two years, but he thought Nathan had cut it then, and it was Nathan who cut it Friday. The only reason Toth said he came when he did was that his boss at the dairy farm had been “growling” about his look, he said. He'd only been growing the beard since November, though, Toth said. At first, he was going to keep it and just have Nathan shave it down close to his face.
When he left, he had no facial hair, and a few inches had been taken off the length of the rest.
Scott Barbour was also waiting during while the Carrenders' cuts were occurring. Most of the relatively short hair he had was at the sides and back of his head, and when it starts growing out on the back of his neck it “gets on my nerves.”
“I'm easy for her. I just take a 1½ all over,” he said as he got in Ruby's chair, referring to the clipper length.
He's been going to Durham's since Nathan, who's now 32, was a little boy, probably around 1996, and he used to come on his lunch hour and just let whoever was free have the honors.
“She's cut it a million times,” Barbour said.
He said he started going there when he moved into town from Temple Hill. It was where some people he knew went, “and it's been here my entire life. So I just came in here one day and liked it and kept coming back.”
He said the parking will be better at the new place, so he's looking forward to not having to drive around the square to find a spot.
Ruby said Nathan was 8 years old when she started working there in 1994, when the business was still owned by Max Durham. When he retired in 2007, she bought out the business – essentially the equipment and furnishings. The space in the basement of the building was rented by both, and their predecessors.
“It's been a barbershop 97 years,” Ruby said. “It started in '22. Max's uncle started it.”
The uncle, whose first name she couldn't recall, left at one point, and Bill Howard took it over, changing the name to Howard's Barbershop and remodeling it in 1938, adding a lot of green. The three barber chairs with mint green bases, as a matter of fact, and the matching sink – used only as a basin for candy now – all went to the new location.
“All the kids know to go to the sink,” Ruby said.
Max Durham, who became a barber around 1960, started working for Howard at the shop at 202 W. Main St. in 1963 and sometime in the late 1970s, it became Durham's again.
“And then I bought it in '07 and just left the name Durham's,” Ruby said.
Nathan began as a barber in 2010, 2011 – “somewhere in there.”
Growing up, essentially, in the shop, he “swore up and down” he would never be a barber, he and his mother said in different ways.
He needed a daytime job so he could take care of his two children in the evenings, and he decided to give it a try.
“I like cutting hair, I mean, love it. Never thought I would, but … turns out, I like it and I'm good at it,” Nathan said.
Nathan Ware got a trim Friday afternoon, saying he'd been coming there about 18 months, and he agreed with the other Nathan's assessment of his skill.
“I needed a haircut, and I saw this place driving by and I figured I'd try it,” he said. “I liked it. I like the atmosphere here.”
“We love you, too, Nathan,” Ruby said.
After she told Christian Tooley, who was home on break from the University of Kentucky and had just gotten his hair cut there for the first time after looking at online reviews, that they were moving, she said they were getting much more excited about the move.
“It's becoming reality now,” she said. “It's going to be different. I'll probably drive up here first thing, pull in the parking lot and think, 'What am I doing? I didn't need to walk down those steps no more.'”