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Largo's old-fashioned, traditional barber shop lives on East Bay Drive

Walking into the East Bay Barber Shop is like stepping back in time — before the days of unisex hair salons.

If the red, white and blue barber pole is spinning, you can expect to see silver-haired gentlemen cat napping inside on the swivel chairs.

And whether it's a flat top (a crew cut), a high-and-tight (military buzz cut) or a Caesar cut (brushed forward with short, straight bangs), owner John Boswell ends every $9 haircut the same way.

He slaps on warm shaving cream, then gingerly works his flat razor across the customer's face and neck.

"We haven't changed much over the years because our business has always worked,'' said Boswell, who has commuted from Plant City every Tuesday through Saturday for the last 39 years. "When I started, there were three traffic lights between home and here. Now there are 17.''

He's the second Plant City barber to operate at the location. The first was his maternal grandfather, H.J. Robinson.

"Granddad got his start in Plant City, but he opened this shop in 1961 because my grandma liked going to the beach after work at night,'' Boswell said. "They worked together."

He would cut hair and she took the money. "She was the cash register,'' he joked.

When he was 18 years old, Boswell enrolled at the old Sunstate Barber College on Missouri Avenue in Largo. After he received his certificate in barbering in 1971, he joined his grandfather in business.

"I remember our busiest day was towards his retirement," he said. "He had to leave early, and people were still used to having two of us here. I did 63 haircuts,''

Longtime customer Jeffrey Godcharles likens Boswell to Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith Show.

"The environment of the oldtime barber shop is a piece of Americana that is becoming more difficult to find,'' Godcharles said. "But when you do find it, you can't help but come back.''

Boswell, who estimates his yearly income between $30,000-$40,000, doesn't expect he'll be making any changes to his business anytime soon, and that includes his walk-ins-only policy.

There are no call-in appointments. His grandfather never put in a phone and neither has he.

"In my career, I think I've had less stress than anybody I know,'' he said. "Our customer just come in to see us when they need a haircut.''

East Bay Barber Shop

Where: 2866 E Bay Drive, Largo.

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Policy: Walk-ins only.

Largo's old-fashioned, traditional barber shop lives on East Bay Drive 06/19/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 19, 2010 1:24pm]
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