C. Julia Nelson
History. Simplicity. Camaraderie.
These are the ideals keeping traditional barbershops alive and well in the heart of Buckhead, despite the onset of the modern day salon and spa.
While salons cater overwhelmingly to females, males appreciate a more low key environment where getting a clean cut and tight shave takes 15 to 30 minutes. Gauging the value of this tradition, several local entrepreneurs have kept old school barbershops on the map.
Today, three barbershops keep the old-fashioned ambiance alive in the Buckhead area: Tommy’s Barber Shop, the Peachtree Battle Barbers and 71 Barbershop. Each distinctive in its own right, these barbers are preserving what many mistakenly believe has been swept away.
Thomas Barber Shop – A taste of history:
Nostalgic Coke bottles, local football helmets and a shrine to clients past and present line the walls at Thomas Barber Shop. That coupled with a team of hometown barbers give this shop a home-sweet-home appeal.
Located at 1268 W. Paces Ferry, Thomas Barber Shop first opened in 1959 in the West Paces Ferry Shopping Center.
Owner Walter “Tommy” Thomas, son of Gilmer Thomas – the original Tommy – who built the shop, whole-heartedly believes history is an integral part of any authentic barbershop. Thomas Barber Shop is no exception having served senators, CEOs, governors and the like for almost half a century.
“It’s about history,” Tommy said. “We try to preserve history at our shop.”
An important piece of that history is the established relationship between Thomas and Coca-Cola. Over the years, Coca-Cola executives and staff have relied on Tommy for their haircuts. In return, Coca-Cola has supported Tommy with various sponsorships including the creation of a special edition 40th anniversary bottle for the shop in 1999.
“A lot of people have referred to us as the Coca-Cola Barber Shop,” he said. “It’s been a great family relationship between us and the people of Coca-Cola.”
While Coca-Cola has a running history at the shop, many clients have shown unparalleled loyalty to Tommy. Bennett Hutchison of Atlanta has been a client at the Thomas Barber Shop since it opened. Relying on a clean cut and shave for $16 and a regular update on friends, Hutchison can’t imagine going anywhere else, unless it’s an emergency.
“Growing up, every other Saturday I got to see Tommy to clean up for church,” Hutchison recalled. “My brothers and father came religiously twice a month since I was 5.”
While history, reliability and a friendly staff serve its purpose at Thomas Barber Shop, so too does the use of a razor over clippers.
“It’s a dying art,” Tommy said. “Hair cutters today just want to use clippers. But razors – they’re cleaner, slicker, smoother. A barbershop is the last place to use a razor.”
And if that’s not enough, every hair cut is followed by a deep tissue shoulder massage as a relaxing send off.
Thomas Barber Shop is open 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday; it’s closed Sunday and Tuesday.
It is located at 1268 W. Paces Ferry.
Peachtree Battle Barbers – Simply reliable:
It’s easy; it’s affordable and it’s reliable. All the things a man looks for in getting a clean cut are the strongholds at Peachtree Battle Barbers.
Owner Wayne King finds that keeping it simple is key to bringing customers back time and again. No frills, no hoopla and no nonsense have become the right formula when it comes to maintaining this shop at 2333 Peachtree Rd. in the Peachtree Battle Plaza.
Since opening in 1958, Peachtree Battle Barbers’ customers have come to expect a quick, relaxing and hassle-free experience. King has maintained that philosophy over the years and the payoff has been worthwhile.
“It’s easy for us,” King said. “There’s nothing fancy, just haircuts. Men like it simple and we’re easy-going people.”
Barber Roy Cole is relatively new to the shop but he understands what it means to be part of a 50-year tradition that men value.
“Most of the clientele have been coming their whole lives,” Cole said. “People stick to what they know and they like it. If they like it, of course they’re gonna come back.”
Kevin Duda of Buckhead has been loyal to Peachtree Battle Barbers since moving into the area about 10 years ago.
“Most men don’t want to go to a salon just to get their hair cut,” Duda said. “Men like the traditional barbers; it’s easy and you can have decent conversation if you want it.”
Having a consistency that men have come to appreciate at Peachtree Battle Barbers, not much has changed at the shop over the years, with one small exception. The cost of a cut and shave was just $1.75 when King started working at the shop in 1965. Considering the cost today is only $16, it seems inflation has hardly had an effect on tradition.
Peachtree Battle Barbers is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and on Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
71 Barbershop – Camaraderie and a precision cut:
The life-sized barber’s pole standing alongside Piedmont Road is anything but obscure.
Old-school barbershop tradition lives at 2959 Piedmont Rd.; there’s no mistaking it.
At 71 Barbershop, customers know the guys will be watching the game, making the appointment will be effortless, good conversation is guaranteed and of course the cut and shave – will be a cut above.
An over-sized flat panel television, online appointments and credit card payments in addition to the nine skilled barbers have launched 71 Barbershop into the new millennium. On the other hand, quality man time, an inviting atmosphere and a precision cut keep the shop well within the ranks of a traditional barbershop.
Owner Carlos Mahone opened 71 in 2004 with the notion to combine traditional barbershop techniques, such as hot razor shaves, with advanced technology, such as a web site and satellite cable, to get the best of both worlds.
“I wanted to marry the traditions of old barbershops with new-age technologies available today,” Mahone said. “Men believe they should be allowed to subscribe to hot razor shaves, clean razor lines and male camaraderie. That’s what we do at 71.”
Creating a distinct separation from a salon-style business, Mahone offers his clientele a true barbershop experience, well beyond the capabilities of a salon.
“Most salons focus on delivering products,” he said. “They teach a couple basic hair cuts. Our barbers understand what it means when a client asks for an executive cut and know what questions to ask next to give the client exactly what he expects.”
The formula 71 uses to cater to any style is a diverse roster of licensed technicians. From color technicians to afro specialists, everything is covered. Seasoned staff, such as Virgil Clark, with more than 50 years experience in Buckhead, keeps the clientele returning.
“I’ve worked for up to five generations in one family,” Clark said. “Some of my clients have never used another barber.”
While Millard Rutherford of Buckhead has only been a 71 client for about one and a half years, he feels he’s found a home to have his hair cut.
“It’s in a vicinity that’s close by,” Rutherford said. “And you get a good hair cut, good service and a good atmosphere.”
Although about 98 percent of the clientele is male, 71 Barbershop is equipped for any hair type and the staff is careful to make everyone feel welcome.
“We try to create an environment inclusive and welcoming to everybody,” Mahone said.
Over all, 71 Barbershop strives to keep the barbershop experience as convenient and affordable as possible. As part of that effort, a basic cut costs $15 and a second location recently opened at 85-North and Shallowford Road.
Hours of operation for 71 are Monday through Wednesday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Online appointments are available at www.71barbershop.com.