The purr of electric clippers fills the air as Winfred "Bill" Woodger beckons another client to his vintage 1913 barber chair. On the menu: warm towels, a shave with a straight-edge razor and a facial. The kind of services barbers used to be known for, Woodger says. Woodger, 37, opened B-Snipped Barber Shop on 56th Street near Busch Boulevard in 2008. He quickly became known in the community for his talents and devotion to keeping the traditional aspects of a barbershop alive. Even the shop's atmosphere is reminiscent of a bygone era. Vintage barber chairs line one side of the shop, classic jazz can often be heard streaming from the radio, and black and white posters of musicians such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker adorn the walls.
Over time, though, Woodger also became known for something else: his service as a role model to young men passing through his shop.
"He keeps the community motivated by living his own life that way," said Tim Myers, of Temple Terrace.
A client for the past two years, Myers, 30, came in on a recent Friday afternoon for a quick haircut. While he waited for his turn in the chair, he described Woodger's attitude as contagious.
"He inspires others to do better."
Growing up in Detroit, Woodger was surrounded by inspiration. With a family full of barbers, he became enamored with the art of the trade. He had his barber's license by the time he finished high school.
Now, 20 years later, Woodger passes on his passion to anyone who will listen. Particularly to young men interested in learning more.
Many young barbers don't know how to educate a client on the proper way to take care of their skin, he said. They may have never used a straight razor or don't know the correct products to recommend for use in their hair or on their skin. Woodger is always ready to pull out his decades-old barber school book for anyone with a question. Barbers, he said, date back to ancient Egypt, and many acted as the first surgeons.
"The schools don't teach these things now; it's almost like a lost art," Woodger said.
It's not just about the service but also being there for the client and lending an open ear, he said.
"I try to think, how can I make a person feel that much better than when they came in," Woodger said.
Joshua Chandler, 30, started working as a barber at B-Snipped in March. He knew the basics of being a barber, but Woodger taught him how to keep clients coming back.
"He taught me the art of hospitality, the extra customer service they don't teach you in school," Chandler said. "We focus on not hurrying up and getting you out of the chair but taking care of our customers and making them happy."
Woodger hopes to pass his knowledge on to his 15-year-old son someday. His wife, Natasha, and two daughters ages 14 and 10, may not be interested in becoming barbers, but they support him from the sidelines, he said.
Some clients feel more like members of a family than customers. Dorian Adams is among those who call Woodger "Uncle."
Every afternoon, Adams, 16, stops by the shop just to check in with Woodger, who usually drills him on how school is going and tries to give words of encouragement.
"I have to give him a little bit of tough love," Woodger said.
But Adams said he appreciates Woodger's concern.
"I look up to him a lot," Adams said.
Woodger said he often gives advice to young men looking toward the future, and he tries to maintain an open conversation with the ones who may not have a positive male figure in their lives.
"The barbershop is a place where people can ask their barber about things they wouldn't ask their parents," Woodger said.
But don't try to walk through Woodger's door with your pants hanging below your boxers, Woodger said. He demands respect.
Even clients just a few years younger than Woodger turn to him for advice now and then.
"You don't just get a haircut here, but also get a mentor," said Phillip Anderson, 34, who has been coming to B-Snipped since Woodger opened it.
"He is just a great role model for all of us."
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (863) 226-3374.