Home at Last
The PubScout has finally found a proper barber shop in the South.
We transplants from the Northeast have a lot to like about Southeastern NC. The weather, the people, the relatively empty roads, the weather, the shrimp and grits, that Southern Hospitality (bless our hearts), the pristine beaches, the burgeoning number of breweries, the excellent restaurants, and did I mention the weather?
The pizza and bagels — not so much, but even they are getting better all the time.
But there’s one thing we geezers from the Northeast might have trouble finding: an old school, throwback barber shop. You know, the kind you grew up in as a kid. Striped pole, a big American flag on a pole or on the wall, three or more big padded chairs, Americana bric-a-brac on the walls, maybe a stuffed animal head or two, and three or more old school barbers who know your name and your preferred cut.
And that unmistakable barber shop smell — a mixture of leather chairs and strops, Barbasol, Blue Barbicide, Clubman astringent and hot towels.
And forgive my lapse into a bit of toxic masculinity, but “man talk.” Sports, politics, cars, good food and reminiscences about the “old days.”
Those shops aren’t always easy to find down here, what with the “salons” and the “quick cuts” in nicely decorated (and usually sterile) strip mall-based storefront operations. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but they just don’t exude a welcoming masculine feel. And I make no apology for loving my masculinity.
Neither do those nail places exude masculinity, but when you can’t reach your own toenails to cut them, you farm the job out, if you get my drift. And while being snipped, you hope none of your buddies from the bar next door walk in.
I tried to find a comfortable place for a good, old-fashioned haircut for a few months when I first came south, and while those places cut my hair (not always to my liking) they were missing the “feel” of an old school barber shop.
And then I found Head Hunters Barber Shop in Calabash. It is a storefront operation in the back of a strip mall, so I wasn’t holding out much hope.
Upon walking in, however, I was transported back 65 years. The distinctive, pleasant smell hit me before I was able to take in all the things that had made my youthful forays into these emporia so memorable: American flag, leather, stuffed animals and assorted bric-a-brac and Americana on the walls, a stack of magazines, three or four guys waiting patiently on a church pew bench for the three or four guys working on previous customers to get done and call them up.
And the old, nearly musical barber shop banter wafting through the entire place.
If these guys can cut my hair as I like it, I thought, I’m home.
They could, they did and I was.
After nearly two years (and one pandemic) of going there, I’ve finally come to know (and remember) the names of all the guys behind the chairs.
Owner Marco and colleagues Josh and Chris all come from pretty far away to ply their trade. Marco hails from Lake Waccamaw, Josh from Clarkton and Chris from Lumberton.
That’s a pretty good distance to come to work every day, but they all seem happy to be there. Owner Marco Rookes had purchased the business a number of years ago when it was in a different location, and after only eight months of his owning it, it was destroyed in a fire, and the business was not insured at the time.
But Marco persisted and fired up the current iteration, which began as “Head Hunter” then had to be changed for some arcane reason to “Head Hunters.” They still have the original name mounted on the wall inside, too, among multiple other artifacts.
And there’s no dearth of heads to hunt in the last ten years either. Buoyed by a loyal, local faithful following (myself included), the church pew is rarely empty. And, admittedly, most of the clippings on the floor are gray or at least “salt and pepper.” But Head Hunters’ prices are more than reasonable — just $14 for a men’s haircut — and they’ll trim your eyebrows, ears, nose and beard as well.
I’m sorry to digress a bit, but that whole hairy ears and nose business has bothered me for five decades. When women age, they are pretty well-prepped as to what to expect with the eventual onslaught of menopause, not that it makes it any easier. And God bless them for dealing with it.
But nobody — NOBODY — ever tells young men, “Someday there will be large sprouts of hair growing out of your ears, nose and eyebrows. Deal with it.”
No matter. The Headhunters handle it all with dignity, aplomb and good humor.
No one complains about the wait, either. First, because the guys cut their customers’ hair quickly and efficiently and always to their customers’ liking. And second because no one waiting is really bothered by sitting in a living, breathing, functional museum with interesting chatter and lots of things to look at besides their phones.
It took me a while to find Head Hunters.
But not long at all to realize I was ‘home.”
Need a trim?
Head Hunters Barber Shop
10000 Beach Drive SW, Calabash