COLUMBIA - Traditional barber shops like Hair Unlimited and Route B Barber Shop have quite a lot of history behind them, with the former being around for at least 26 years and the latter for almost 50. Yet the two shops are part of a dying industry of haircare; the barber industry, at least at it was known in the past.
Nowadays hair-cutting chains and beauty shops dominate the industry, but Hair Unlimited and Route B Barber Shop's owners told KOMU 8 News that while the shops may be vanishing, barbering methods and skills are not going anywhere. In addition, they insist the traditional community-oriented atmosphere barber shops were known for is kept very much alive in their shops.
Mack Knotts, five-year owner of Route B Barber Shop, said that while traditional barber shops are not as prevalent as they used to be, barber skills are still being learned and taught.
"The skills are always there. I've got it in my hands. As do the rest of the people who work here. I wouldn't say its dying out in that form but as far as numbers, yeah, by all means. There's nowhere near the barbers that there once were," said Knotts.
And Rob Eichelberger, owner of Hair Unlimited, said that certain barber skills are not taught or used in any other field of haircare, setting the barber industry apart.
"There is a very talent to how a barber cuts a head of hair. For example, we'll use instruments that taper and make from zero to a fade. Those are techniques that we learn in barber school itself. As well as knowing how to use a razor and certain techniques that you use to get the effect you want. So that kinda separates us from other places that have been trained differently," Eichelberger said.
But both owners believe that the barber industry may have a resurgence one day.
"I think when you say tradition... I think really when you bring back some of the old into the new, it causes a kind of a interest in any business you create. I think time will redevelop itself, it'll come back around again," Eichelberger said.
And Knotts said, "We've had our fair share of people coming and going, but most of them stay within the business and most of them really go and do their own, which is a good step".
Regardless of its popularity or relevance in Columbia, EIchelberger and Knotts agree that the most worthwhile part of their profession is the long-lasting relationships they build with their customers.
"You get quite a variety of people, of all different kinds of backgrounds. You really have interesting conversations that carry you through and it makes it fun and long lasting", Eichelberger said.
"I've been working in this shop for 13 years. I'm actually starting to see people grow up", Knotts said.
Hair Unlimited is located at 1729 W Broadway, and Route B Barber Shop is located at 1806 Paris Rd.