Business booming again for historic downtown barbershop

Posted at 7:29 PM, Jul 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-25 19:39:05-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - At Fifth and Franklin hairstyles may have changed, but one thing hasn’t: customer service.

“I keep pinching myself saying don’t wake up. Don’t wake up. All that old stuff on the wall is 1929,” says Hugh Campbell.

Hugh Campbell is smiling a little wider these days.

“Wow! The folks that have been through here? Cab Callowoy, Fats Domino, Joe Louis the boxer,” Hugh says. “Winston Churchill has been through here. And John Wayne. That is why it is so important to save this floor. A lot of history.”

Five years ago, Hugh packed up his scissors and left the only place he’s known for 40 years. The owner of the John Marshall Barbershop was forced to relocate during extensive renovations to the old hotel. The legendary shop frequented by presidents, governors and a King named Elvis had seen better days. The paneled walls screamed a different age in the 21st century. A slumping economy and an empty downtown – cut deep, but Hugh didn’t want to close up shop.

Hugh says, “I took care of President Ford. I took care of President Bush I have his picture up there.”

But in the late 90’s business tapered off. Customer traffic dipped more than thirty percent in the early 2000’s. He was holding on by a hair. Hugh thought about retirement but never wanted to throw in the towel. Hugh moved to a temporary shop across the street. But the two year planned renovation of the John Marshall stretched into six. The question was would his customers return.

After thousands of dollars in renovations and a six year wait, the place where governors past and present get a trim, reopened to begin its next chapter as a full service shop. The shop reopened on June 11th.

Joy Bowser shines customers’ shoes while they get their mane trimmed. “It feels so good to be a part of something so traditional and many years behind it.”

With the rebirth of the John Marshall business is buzzing. Customer Richard Woodward has been coming to Hugh’s shop for 36 years. It’s a wonderful environment. There is always great conversation.”

More people living downtown means more customers. The streets around the John Marshall apartment complex are coming back to life with people who are choosing an urban lifestyle.

Hugh says it was worth the wait, “You know you’re in something special. It is a special shop.”

Hugh’s customers old and new are returning to a place they think is a cut above.