Editor’s Note: This is the first story in a series about Gainesville’s beauty industry. You can read the second story of this series here.
There are few groups who truly have power over the way people feel about themselves.
Whether it’s giving a nice haircut that builds confidence or providing a listening ear, barbers are one group in the beauty industry who contribute to the community around them. These barbers also facilitate personal connections with their clients that can span their entire lives and move through generations.
The muffled sound of laughter and the buzz of electric hair clippers can be heard through the walls of Kutters Barber Shop.
Kutters Barber Shop owner Bill Goolsby, 65, fixed his grandson Eli’s hair after he had gotten a bad haircut a few weeks ago. At the time, Eli’s father, Jonah Goolsby, tried to comfort him.
“It’s not that bad,” his father said.
“Dad, look at it,” Eli said.
Eli felt much more at home in the worn seat of his grandfather’s barbershop.
After cutting a few inches off the top, Goolsby asked Eli if he wanted it shorter. Eli shook his head fervently, as if to indicate that it was perfect and trimming even a single hair would ruin his grandfather’s masterpiece.
Goolsby has been a barber for 43 years. He followed in the footsteps of his father who opened Kutters in 1959.
He wanted to be a mechanic but realized it wouldn’t be fun and it wouldn’t make him happy, he said.
“We choose our own misery or happiness,” Goolsby said.
So, he learned to cut hair.
He has many interests — from poker to fishing — but his work remains the most important.
“I'm too busy having fun to go play,” he said.
His favorite thing about being a barber is learning from everyone he meets. He asks more questions than he answers, but that’s what a barber does — listen.
“As a kid, my entertainment was to come over here and sit and listen,” Goolsby said. “And I still learn so much.”
He has cut the hair of doctors, scientists and authors. Signed photographs and framed medals pay homage to the legends who have sat in his chair.
Since Kutters opened in 1959, the building and the service have barely changed. However, there are still some new additions Goolsby accumulated over the years, like his cat Gigi. The large tabby cat can often be found napping in a chair by the door.
Another new addition is the jungle of banana trees and other flora Goolsby planted around the entrance.
Goolsby also rents the adjacent lot to Terrell’s Bar-B-Que food truck. With the door to Kutters often left open, the smell of roasting beef and barbecue sauce drifts right in.
He hopes to add a second story with a space for hammocks and a pool table to bring more people in. The goal is to make it more than a barbershop, but also a place to hang out.
But Goolsby isn’t the only one who views his shop as a second home.
Music shakes the walls of Fame Of Fadez Exclusive barbershop the moment of entry.
Anthony Anderson, the 38-year-old barber, discovered the barbershop world at a very young age, cutting hair since he was 12.
Two people paved the way for Anderson —his grandfather John Phillips and family friend Aaron Young.
Both were preachers who also cut hair. Anderson remembers learning how to be a barber by sitting and watching them.
He began by cutting the hair of his cousins and uncles, and his clientele has been loyal to him since then.
“We were kids when I was cutting their hair, and now I'm cutting their kids’ or their grandkids’ [hair],” he said.
Like Goolsby, he also loves getting to know the people who sit in his chair. He has grown close to those who may not be related by blood as people become regulars over the years.
He recently cut the hair of 10-year-old Gainesville resident JJ Merritt. Anderson gave JJ his first haircut eight years ago.
Anderson will go to JJ’s football games and say hi to his father, mother and other siblings if they run into each other.
“It's more than just cutting hair,” he said.
Being a barber and building relationships with his customers has even taken him outside of Gainesville. He has cut the hair of professional football players and has been called to traveling games.
It’s different when you’re getting your hair cut by a barber, Anderson said.
“You got people who cut in shops, and it's not a barbershop,” he said. “But then you have people who have barbershops.”
But in the end, his favorite part about being a barber is bringing joy to other people through the power of a nice haircut.
“The way the haircut makes them feel at the end, just that little spot of joy or happiness,” Anderson said. “They might be having a bad day or bad week, but you get a nice haircut and kind of feel better about yourself.”
Contact Aubrey at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @aubreyyrosee.
Aubrey Bocalan is a third-year journalism major. She is also pursuing a double major in Art. When she isn't writing, she's probably watching TV with her dog, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Bocalan.