Barber becomes debate moderator during election season
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 8:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 8:11 p.m.
Bill Goolsby is a barber, but he's also part bartender, therapist and best friend. This close to the election, he's also a debate moderator.
Goolsby, 54, is the owner of Kutters Barber Shop, 1916 Waldo Road, where the chatter around the chairs these days typically involves politics and the upcoming presidential election.
“My dad always told me never talk politics or religion in the barbershop,” Goolsby said, adding with a laugh, “and I didn't listen.”
His father opened the shop in 1959, he said, as Neighborhood Barber Shop.
Back then, Goolsby said, men used to get their hair cut once a week, and the shop's front window advertised “Hot Showers” for customers who didn't have hot water at home.
Goolsby grew up in a house attached to the barbershop next door to his granddad's house. A small window on the shop's north side used to be a door into his house.
The house once had a big front yard before Waldo Road was four-laned in the 1970s. Since then, the 250-square-foot shop has sat alone.
After attending Eastside High School, Goolsby wanted to be a mechanic. But friends told him he should work somewhere with air conditioning where he wouldn't skin his knuckles, so he went to barber school in Orlando.
For the past 33 years, he's been working as a barber at his father's old shop.
“We've been here 50 years, so people just know we're here,” he said, guessing that 99 percent of his customers are regulars.
Goolsby wears jeans, a short-sleeve shirt and a black vest with button flaps so flying hair doesn't get in the four pockets.
His haircuts cost $12 and take about 15 minutes. A beard trim costs $5, but an eyebrow trim is complimentary. The shop also offers women's cuts for $22, but almost every customer is male.
Two traditional spinning red-and-white barber poles frame the outside of the shop, and Gators memorabilia and old photos decorate the inside.
Florida football is a popular subject, but lately politics has been the main topic of discussion. Goolsby said he and his customers speak their minds but never have arguments.
“If I see somebody getting mad we just go right to fishing,” Goolsby said. “Change the subject.”
Business has been slower lately, Goolsby said, with the bad economy making people wait longer to get their hair cut.
“Barbers are going out of business left and right all over the country,” he said.
Though Goolsby has opened two other locations in the past five years, he said the original shop is in a terrible spot. It's not next to a gas station, a grocery store or a mall, he said, where people would shop and realize they need a haircut.
He would love to open another shop on Archer Road or in the Oaks Mall. “That's my dream,” he said.
His shop has two barber's chairs, and six chairs line the opposite wall, where people sit and wait and talk about life.
“You get the certain people that just need a place to hang out,” Goolsby said, “and the barber shop is that place.”
His loud laugh echoes inside the small shop, and his regulars seem to enjoy the teasing that comes with a haircut.
After finishing with one man, he told the rest of the people in the shop, “If he had a good lookin' face, that'd be a nice lookin' haircut.”
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