I’m first and foremost a pastor. I like to tell people that the 40 hours I work here is my part time job.”
Never one to shy away from hard work, Bob Prince began his dual career as a preacher and a barber when he was only 16 years old. And while the price of a haircut has increased over the years, so has his passion for both jobs.
As a teenager growing up in Tampa, Fla., Prince completed Barber College before he graduated from high school. He charged just 75 cents for haircuts back then. With two older brothers working as barbers and seven relatives — including his father — preaching, it’s easy to see how he was influenced.
“I had finished college and was working my first job when I was called to preach,” said Prince, 67, who was raised Church of God. “Since then, I’ve done both off and on, sometimes at the same time.”
Prince recently returned to his dual career life, having focused solely on his church for the past few years. And while leading the congregation at Shepherd’s Fold, a Congregational Holiness Church on Fussell Road, remains his priority, former customers are delighted that he’s opened a barbershop once again.
Located at 2222 Palmyra Road in the Lamar Parr Center, The Barber Shop isn’t Prince’s first venture at shop ownership. For 15 years he owned Northside Barber Shop before selling it to one of his peers. After three years of cutting hair in that shop on Saturdays only, he decided to hang out the red, white and blue pole once again.
“I came back to accommodate my clientele,” shared Prince, noting that the barber business is one of few not adversely affected by the economy. “But I’m first and foremost a pastor. I like to tell people that the 40 hours I work here is my part time job.”
Prince will be behind the chair full-time until the first of the year when he’ll cut back to Thursdays and half days on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“The customers seem to be glad I’m back,” said Prince, adding that he cuts the hair of many of his fellow pastors. “This is a Christian shop and we try to maintain a Christian atmosphere and they appreciate that. Our gospel music plays 24/7. It’s a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.”
Barber shops are notorious for the conversation that takes place there between barbers and customers, and Prince’s shop is no exception. These days, Barak Obama and politics dominate most conversations.
“We try not to discuss politics, but it still gets discussed,” he admitted.
When asked if customer expectations or requests have changed over the 50 plus years he’s spent barbering, Prince was quick to respond.
“Not from my customers,” he said. “I still do the old fashioned barber cut. But the introduction of cosmetology into the barbershop has made a big difference in the clientele I guess.”
So if a fella walks in off the street and wants some kind of fancy do, Prince won’t be his man. But not to worry — he’s got them covered. The Barber Shop also employs two cosmetologists, Kim Etheridge and Melanie Carter, both of whom he worked with at his previous location.
While business is building for the moment, Prince fears that barber shops “are a dying breed.” Aging barbers and an increase in men seeking haircuts at hairstyle chains and beauty shops may mean an end to barber shops in the not too distant future.
“We used to get so busy at the other shop that we had to use numbers. I anticipate having to do that again here,” he said.
For now, Prince will keep cutting hair and spreading the good news, both from behind the pulpit and the barber chair.
The Barber Shop is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday. The shop’s phone number is 436-2828.
Written by K.K. Snyder.