WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Last week a Wilmington man passed a major milestone: 50 years doing the same job in the same place.
Harry Pope said he became a barber because his father told him people will always need a haircut. But all these years later he said time is trimming his profession.
Every day except Wednesdays and Sundays, Harry Pope unlocks the doors at his Sunset Barber Shop and waits for customers to trickle in.
"My biggest competition now is death. I may about outlive my customers,” Pope said. “When you read the obituaries every morning, that’s the first thing I look at. You look in there and you see another customer has passed on."
But the loyal still come in for a trim, as they have for 50 years. Pope bought everything in his shop on April 7, 1959, for $1,000.
A lot has changed since he graduated from barber college and started cutting hair in 1953. The Coastline Railroad and his customers that worked for it are long gone. The price for a haircut has jumped from 85 cents to $10. And the color of the hair he cuts matches his.
"Who wants an old, grey-headed man to cut their hair?" Pope asked. "Another old, grey-haired man, I guess."
Pope said the barber business started receding as men’s hair got longer; their haircuts became less frequent, and boys started going to the salon with their moms.
"People want jobs that have benefits, and barbers work on commission. They don’t work on salary," Pope said.
Still, he likes what he does, and said the best thing is his customers. But he said making it as a barber requires adapting to change, having the right personality and the right conversation.
"When you’re a barber, you’ve got to be able to talk anything they want to talk. And they say you’re not supposed to argue with your customers, but I do some times, and that’s not good," Pope said.
The work must be good, because Pope said he has no plans to retire.
"I enjoy being around people, and if I retired, I’d be bored to death," he said.
Pope said he still has one customer left from the beginning whose hair he’s been cutting since 1953. He said he’s cut hair at his Carolina Beach Road Shop for four generations of some families.