Tucked away in a little alley between Wilmer Avenue and Noble Street, the business owned and run by Jim and Barbara Turner operates like a family.
Bill McCullars still comes in for a weekly shave. “I’ve got a shaky hand, and I’m afraid I’ll cut my nose,” he said.
But the shave isn’t all McCullars comes for. The folks passing Roffler Shop’s spinning barber pole enter a place where relationships are made, and that’s not something they forget. Jim Turner knows his customers by name and shares conversation with each of them.
Even a long drive doesn’t dissuade the regulars from keeping a date at the Roffler Shop.
“I’ve come here as long as I can remember,” Auburn student Jacob Bagwell said last week as he waited his turn in line. The junior studying computer science said that he drives from both Auburn and his home in Jasper every few months to visit his Nana and to get his hair cut here.
Ninety-two-year old Brooksie Adams, who was in for her twice-monthly visit, described it as “that old-time feeling friendship place, where friends gather together.”
For Barbara Turner, the feeling is mutual, adding that “when you walk in for the first time, we try to make you feel like family.”
Barber Calvin Lackey Sr., owner of 17th Street Barbers, follows that approach as well.
“The vast majority of my customers are like family to me,” he said.
“The best part about being a barber is the people. You learn a lot about people, how good and generous they really are. When you leave the barber shop each day ... these things go with you.”
Lackey remembers when barber shops were once the place to meet and gossip.
“We used to have politicians come in and ask how they were doing... I told them ‘you’ve got it in the bag.’ If I knew something good (about the candidate) I’d tell them, but if I knew something bad, I’d keep it to myself.”
It was a practice he picked up after his father, who told him, “if you don’t have something nice to say, then you shouldn’t say anything.” And it was his father who drew him into the business.
His father cut hair for 67 years. He had eight children, four of whom were boys.
“I was the youngest of them all, which they didn’t let me forget, and I was the last hope” of having another barber in the family, Lackey said recently.
Lackey said his father helped a lot of young barbers get started and was never jealous of somebody else’s business. “My daddy used to say that ‘there were enough people in Calhoun County that needed haircuts, for everyone.’”
Building relationships with customers is the best part of the job, but can be the hardest when one of them falls ill.
The hardest thing Lackey said he has ever had to do was to “shave and cut my father’s hair after he passed away.”
“I cried the whole time,” he said, “and wiped the tears off of my father’s face.”
The hard times only make the good times better, and Lackey has a true passion for barbering.
On the future of the field, he said, “It’s an evolving business, but barbering is a dying art.” Beauticians and stylists do much better starting out now.
Because of that, Lackey said, he won’t be encouraging his son to become a barber the way that he was encouraged while growing up.
When he was young “people used to get their hair cut every week or two weeks. Now it’s once a month or whenever that can get by, and I understand that.”
Star staff writer Katie Wood: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @KWood_Star.