By Kelline Linton, Chief Copy Editor
Nestled in a small shopping strip with stores like Kat’s Kleaners and Chic’s Hair Salon, Georganne’s Barber Shop, 1217 Mockingbird Lane, makes an impression. Red-and-white striped barber poles are painted on its one window, while the plain glass door welcomes all “walk-ins.”
Three brown wooden cabinets line the right wall, separated by two sinks. Although only one of the stations has an old black barber chair with a large chrome handle on its right side, 10 brown-cushioned chairs enclose two-thirds of the room, serving as a waiting area for customers.
Patrons converse about the latest high school football game, while Georganne Cole circles the barber chair, trimming and cutting with quick efficient movements.
She sweeps discarded hair off her customer’s shoulders and back with a wood-handled brush before giving him a massage with a palm-sized vibrating device. He hands her cash, says “thank you” and is immediately replaced with the next waiting client.
Georganne, 50, is a dying breed in Texas where only 35 barber schools compete with thousands of beauty and cosmetology schools, where 5,000 barbers contend with more than 100,000 beauticians.
The local yellow pages only claim nine barbershops in the Abilene area.
The numbers do not faze Georganne as she peers from her large black-framed glasses, combing and clipping 52 weeks of the year. Her mousey brown hair, blue jeans and off-white tennis shoes match the casual attitude of her friendly Texan drawl. She talks with her clients and to the room at large while constantly moving, wielding scissors and clippers. With her skill and speed, she finishes most haircuts in less than 15 minutes.
Georganne has never experienced a slow day at her barbershop.
“The most I ever had was 42 [customers], and the least I ever had was about 13,” she said. “I used to think they came because I was cheap but I had to go up in price, and they still come. I have not missed a beat.”
For ten years, Georganne charged $10 for a haircut but she increased the price last March.
A paper sign on the wall reads, “Haircuts are $12.”
“I don’t know why they come,” she confesses. “I really don’t.”
Emmet West, 79, has been a regular of Georganne’s for the last three years.
“Georganne is a hospitable Christian lady,” West said. “She’s just friendly instead of grouchy.”
Twenty-six-year patron Randy Stevens, 82, agreed with West.
“It’s a good Christian atmosphere,” Stevens said. “She gives a great haircut; she knows all her customers and she takes pride in her work.”
Georganne was not always set on cutting hair. She attended ACU as a physical education major in 1976 for one fall semester but left after discovering college did not suit her. After she returned home to Odessa, Mrs. Smitherman, a family friend, approached her in church one Sunday morning and told her, “You need to go to barber school.”
“I didn’t want to do women’s hair, colors or perms or anything like that,” Georganne remembered telling her, but the woman assured her barbering involved none of those skills.
So Georganne drove to Odessa Barber College for a tour and enrolled the same day.
“I’ve been barbering for 33 years. I love it,” she said. “I never doubted God allowed me to know where to go.”
After returning to Abilene in 1979, she worked at five different stores, including the Westgate Style Center, now a parking lot.
Georganne bought her namesake shop in 1982 from David Lanier and said it looked the same as it does now.
“There wasn’t a whole lot to redecorate,” she said.
Lanier, 80, and David Keefer, 79, worked for Georganne for a year before retiring. She has cut solo ever since.
Eighty-five percent of her customers are men, although she does trim the hair of both sexes. She said fewer women attend barbershops now days.
“I’m a barber. I like clipper cuts, not the new styles,” she said. “I have no desire to do fancy stuff; I like to make a nice, clean haircut.”
Georganne’s daughter Robyn, 20, attends beauty school and may join her mother in the family business, but not anytime soon.
“It will be a while; she likes the perms and colors,” Georganne said. “I, on the other hand, offer a good ol’ fashion haircut, and as long as I’m here, it will be a barbershop.”
With one last clip, Georganne finishes her latest customer’s haircut and grabs the broom for a quick sweep during the lull. The door bangs behind her as a man enters the shop.
Greeting him by name, she takes up her comb and scissors.
“God has blessed me,” Georganne said. “He is the reason for everything. No question, no doubt.”