It's a cut above


Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 2:54 p.m.
Russell's Barber Shop has been a mainstay in the Duval neighborhood since 1960, and it is still going strong.
Russell Henry, who was well-known in the community, started the business along with his wife, Bernice, as a two-chair barber shop located at what is now the Northeast Community Center. The business is now located across from the center at 1704 NE 8th Avenue.
"He helped the community a lot," said Bernice Henry, referring to her husband. "He was in a lot of different organizations. You had to know something about sports if you came in here. He loved sports, and he could speak on any subject."
Christopher Henry, Russell and Bernice's son, said he still hears people talk about his father.
"Guys are always saying how thankful they are for him making them go to school if he saw them skipping school," Christopher said. "They had to go another route if they were skipping because they knew he would tell their parents."
Christopher Henry said his father loved the community. On holidays such as Easter or at the beginning of the school year, times when haircuts are a necessity, if a parent did not have money at the time, they would still say, "go to Mr. Russell and get a haircut. They knew they could pay him whenever they got the money."
Russell Henry died in 1992, and "I've been carrying it on ever since," said Bernice Henry, adding that the business will always be a family operation. "I've seen four generations of folk come through here" she said.
Eddie Lee Jones, sitting at Bernice Henry's station, confirmed her longevity in the close-knit community.
"I've been coming here since I was 10 years old, and now I am 54, so you do the math," said Jones, with a smile on his face as he received a trim and shave from Henry.
"I used to live on this side of town," said Jones, adding that Russell's is special because it is in the neighborhood. "You don't have to go all over town to get your hair cut. I live in Archer now, and I drive all the way from there to get my hair cut here."
Jones said Bernice Henry has been cutting his hair so long that most of the time he doses off once he is seated.
"I close my eyes and go to sleep," Jones said. "Every once in a while I change my style."
"And I know both styles," Henry said, her quip generating a laugh from Jones.
Henry said she enjoys being around people, and, of course, she enjoys the "shop talk."
People come from miles away to get their hair cut. Just as Jones said he comes from Archer to get his weekly cut, another customer said she drove from Starke to get her son a haircut.
"This is my first time in a long time," said Sabrina Scott, who had just paid for her 16-year-old son's, Ryan, haircut. "She is real good. I used to bring him here all the time when he was smaller."
Tracy Robertson said he gets his hair cut at Russell's because he went to North Marion High School with Marlon Johnson, Henry's nephew, who also cuts hair in the 8th Avenue barbershop.
"We try to get over here once a week," Robertson said, with his 7-year-old son Travon at his side, after both received hair cuts from Johnson. "If I'm working late, my wife will bring my son. I've been coming here since Marlon has been here. My son has grown up with Marlon cutting his hair. Plus, Mrs. Bernice is a good lady. She keeps us rolling in there."
Johnson said he has been cutting hair ever since his childhood barber died.
"I used to get my hair cut by Mr. Eddie Jones in Micanopy," said the well-groomed Johnson, whose own wavy cut could be on the cover of a barber publication. "When he died, I began to cut my own hair."
Johnson said he received his license seven years ago from Central Florida Community College, and that on a good day he cuts 25 heads, on a slow day about 15.
"I like this neighborhood," Johnson said. "It is busy. People are always coming along 8th Avenue. A lot of families have been raised around here, and people come back."
Even people who haven't been in Gainesville long seem to locate Russell's.
"I've been living in Gainesville for about a month now, and this is the place I've been coming to to get my hair cut," said Louisiana transplant James Tolbert. "I like to keep my money in the black community, and I patronize black businesses every chance I get."
One woman said she brings her son to Russell's because she wanted to have a professional cut his hair.
"I tried to cut his hair when he was four, and I put a big dent in his head," said Mary Saxton, referring to her 10-year-old son Brandon Reynolds. "He's been coming here ever since. I've known them all of my life."
People who have known the barbers at Russell's over the years don't have to worry about the business going anywhere soon.
"I plan on carrying on the torch," said Christopher Henry,, as he cut a young man's hair in the chair to the right of his mother's. "This is a family thing."
Russell's is open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday.

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