Barber steps out of daily grind

Stepping into the Strandon Barber, on New Plymouth's Devon St East, was like doing the time warp.

But after 51 years cutting hair, owner Rob Parker retired on Friday and from tomorrow things will change - but just a little.

The shop will be taken over by 47-year-old Lindsay Franklin, formerly of the Brougham St Barber.

"I'm not going to change it too much, but I'm going to add a bit of modern technology," the first-time business owner says with a smile.

"Like a phone, Eftpos and a till."

The shop will be re-named Franklinz.

Originally from the Hawke's Bay, Franklin has been in New Plymouth since 1988 and says he's in it for the long haul.

"I'd like to think I could retire here as well."

During Parker's reign, in the centre of the small shop an ancient maroon barber chair dominated.

Around it, on the tongue and groove flooring, a circle of varnish was worn thin from Parker's 17 years of shuffling around his throned and cloaked clients.

A "Taranaki Hard Core Barber Shop" sticker, which sat at the top of a large mirror, was put there one day by THC owner Nigel Dwyer while Parker was out the back of the shop, and a sign on the back of the front door reads "everything is a good idea at 2am."

Parker reckons he's built up a customer base of about 1000 people since he opened up shop in 1996 and he knows about 90 per cent of their names.

Back in 1962, he began his apprenticeship as a tobacconist and barber at Lovell Bros, next to the Mayfair in downtown New Plymouth.

There they learnt to use cut- throat razors by lathering up and shaving balloons.

In 1966 he left town, to work in "such diverse places as Tokoroa, Thames, Christchurch, Manapouri, Auckland, Sydney, London and Darwin."

He says he's only retiring because he has "health issues."

"Mainly my feet paying the price for all the years of standing on concrete floors and only discovering the benefits of substantial footwear in recent years."

He is going to have a lot of time to fill, but luckily he has seven kids and 21 grandkids.

On a good day Rob does about 40 cuts and on a bad day he does about 20. If you're a man it'll cost you $17 and if you're a boy or a pensioner it'll set you back $15.

A sign on the counter warns customers that prices are due to increase by $1 in April.

He has no phone or Eftpos, appointments are not taken, and he says customer numbers are slowly dwindling.

One of the reasons for this may be that he says he's fussy about whose hair he cuts and whose hair he doesn't.

"The older I get, the grumpier I get.

"I like to keep the atmosphere free of chattering woman and screaming kids."

He's not keen on modern cuts either and if someone comes in asking to have half their hair shaved off and the other half with lines through it, he'll tell them where to go.

Newcomer Franklin says he's not so fussy about whose hair he cuts.

Parker says about 70 per cent of his customers are retired and they love to talk.

"They're hard to get out of the shop sometimes.

He says barber schools can teach anyone to cut hair, but one of the most important parts of being a barber is being able to talk to people.

"If you're a good barber, you get them to do all the talking.

"I'm 60 per cent a barber and 40 per cent a counsellor."

It's hard to tell how much of Parker's grumpiness is tongue-in- cheek.

He has figured out how to programme his phone so he gets a text the day before all of his grandkids' birthdays and his last customer on Friday was his 7-year-old grandson.

But he says if any of them ever put a foot wrong they'd get a boot up the rear end.

Taranaki Daily News