By Marcy Thompson
Picturing The Past 

Barber Shops Were Busy Businesses


February 27, 2017

Hart's Barber Shop on East Main St. was a busy place in 1953. Notice the shoe shine stand in the back left.

Like drug stores and cafes, barber shops and beauty shops were important businesses in mid-20th century downtowns across America. People were able to take care of their shopping, banking and other needs with a weekly visit to town.

As early as 1904 the Aethelwold Hotel in downtown Brevard had a barber for businessmen and travelers. Early barber shops also offered shaves, baths and shoe shines.

John W. Smith was a barber for 55 years, most of them at his shop on West Main St. in Brevard. His shop was a hub of civic activity where patrons could play checkers, exchange news and opinions or debate local issues. For many years Smith also had a department for women to get haircuts.

In 1957 J.S. Simms and Mitchell Crawford opened their West Main Barber Shop in Smith's former location. Over the years a number of barbers worked in the West Main Barber Shop, but by 1970 it consisted of Simms, Crawford, Holland Talley, and J.A. Gray.

Talley had worked for Smith and the Simpson Barber Shop before opening his own shop in 1948. Both Simms and Crawford had worked for Talley before joining together to open West Main. J.A. Gray had also worked for both Simpson's and Smith's and had even been partners with Smith for several years before opening his own barber shop in 1955.

The four longtime barbers and friends work together at West Main Barber Shop for several years. In the late 1980s Randy Austin went to work at the barber shop. Later Austin and his brother Ricky purchased the shop. Mitchell Crawford continued to work part-time until about 2002.

Next week Picturing the Past will take a peek inside a few of Brevard's early beauty shops.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or (828) 884-3151 ext. 242.)

The Simpson brothers operated a barber shop from the late 1920s into the 1940s.


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