Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Human Interest

Old-school barbershop keeps Dunedin residents coming back

DUNEDIN — In 1949 when McGuire's Barbershop, then called Taylor's Barbershop, opened at Main Street and Louden Avenue, Dunedin was a quiet little seaside place.

Now Main Street is a busy place, with popular restaurants, small galleries and ice cream shops.

But a few things haven't changed, including the old barbershop on the corner.

"We are old-fashioned barbers," said Morris Hensley, who has co-leased the shop with John Bryson since 2010. "We do shaves with a straight razor and use lather and hot towels."

The barbers also give facial massages and are skilled at flat-top haircuts, Depression-era cuts with short sides and tapered tops, and the pompadours popularized by Elvis Presley in the 1960s.

"We now sell a pomade for men who want that style," Hensley said of the pompadour.

Bryson and Hensley, both natives of Asheville, N.C., follow in the footsteps of the Taylor family and succeeding owners, Mary McGuire and Laura Lucas. The old-fashioned approach to cutting men's hair has moved through the years with all the owners.

"Very few businesses out there try to maintain the business the way it was when it started," said Jason Griffiths, the third barber in the shop. He has worked with Bryson and Hensley for the last several years. "Most want to make it newer or better."

Not so with these three, who say they are nostalgic and devoted to the old ways.

"Most customers just want a cut and a shave," Bryson said. "I'd say most of today's barbershops don't do shaves, but if they do it's with a safety razor like you'd use at home."

A haircut will set you back $12, and a shave is $20.

One recent morning Jim Yrigoyen of Dunedin was stretched out in Bryson's chair with his eyes closed and his cheeks swathed in lather. Bryson then covered Yrigoyen's face with hot towels and put more lather on to begin the shave.

"It's a really close shave and you don't have to shave the next day," said the satisfied customer. "You can't shave this closely yourself."

The shop, still called McGuire's Barbershop after Mary McGuire, who owned it from 1983 until 1998, lures passers-by to peek in the window and catch a glimpse of yesterday.

McGuire replaced the original barbershop pole with a newer model outside, but the cozy interior of the shop gives a nod to the past. The three red leather barber chairs date back to 1949, when the shop opened, as do the mirrors and wooden trim behind the chairs. The sinks, which Bryson plans to resurface shortly, are original as well.

The ambience of this shop, though, is reminiscent of many other barbershops in the way clients and barbers interact.

One morning a small but steady stream of men clad in shorts and flip-flops or sneakers drifted in, took the first available chair and put in their request.

Joe Kurtzke of Dunedin sat down in Griffith's chair and asked for his usual: a regular medium cut.

"These guys guarantee they'll make it right or you come back and they'll change it," Kurtzke said. "They pay attention to you."

Chitchat is a natural part of the experience, and in a small shop one conversation may engage all present.

"We talk about anything and everything," said Joe Chiarella, who moved to Dunedin from upstate New York just two years ago. "After bartenders, barbers are where we bare our souls."

Griffiths listened as he cut Chiarella's hair.

"We as barbers try to stay as impartial as we can," said Griffiths, "but politics has a tendency to rear its ugly head."

Chiarella smiled. "I have strong feelings about our present political situation," he said. "If someone opens the door, I'll offer an opinion, but I won't initiate a political conversation."

The shop doesn't cater to senior customers, although retired winter residents are plentiful in Dunedin and its environs. All ages find their way through the door.

"I did an 18-month-old last week," said Hensley, "but we also have customers in their 90s."

No one wants to change much in this shop, but Bryson said they have one more vintage barber chair and he would like to add a fourth barber down the road.

Otherwise, all are satisfied with what is — including the customers, who keep coming back.

Tom Wolansyk, a winter resident from Michigan, is among them.

"I get the best haircuts I've found since I've been in Florida," said the Chicago area native of McGuire's. "All of them give me a good cut."

Kurtzke, who gets the same regular medium cut each time, said he enjoys coming in and always leaves satisfied.

"The minute you walk in, you know you're in the right place," he said, "and the minute you walk out, you know you'll be back."

Correspondent Elaine Markowitz can be reached at [email protected]

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