FLORENCE (AP) – The barber to the mayors of Florence since David McLeod – not to mention the renowned athletes who found their way to Florence – ended his 57-year barber career and closed a barber shop that had at least 120 years old when he and his wife left Patriot Barber Shop for the last time last Friday.
The boutique, which started at the Hotel Sanborn in Florence, will go up for auction one piece at a time in the near future, said Dan Phillips.
He moved to his current location on the south side of Evans Street near the intersection of Coit Street in 1957 – at least that’s what Phillips said he was told.
It only started in 1966, as the United States approached a pivotal period in hairdressing history.
But to appreciate the story – and Dan Phillips has a lot of it – you have to go back to 1964, when he began his career as a barber at a Dargan Street store.
“I started in the third chair and climbed to the first chair.” Phillips said of his old store. âI came here in 66. The man who ran it, his health was bad. He said, “Whatever reason I have to quit, I’ll give you the first chance to buy it,” because my brother worked for him in ’63.
âWhen I came here in 1966, we had 13 hair salons within a mile and a half, and they had an average of four chairs per salon. (The store owner) died in ’68. His wife told me what she wanted for the store.
Phillips said he went to his bank – he cut the bank’s CEO’s hair – and was turned down for a loan because, with the advent of long hair, 3,500 hair salons per month were closing across the country.
Eventually, the previous owner’s widow financed the purchase and Phillips was in business.
âAt the time, there was only one hair salon in Florence that had five barbers, and that was Frank Ward at the Florence Mall,â Phillips said.
âA lot of the older barbers said they weren’t cutting long hair, and they stopped,â Phillips said. “I was doing cosmetology shows with my wife, so I knew how to work with long hair.”
Customers were like family
Myrtle Phillips showed a photo of a barber and a beautiful woman in the barber chair that a customer who hadn’t been in the store for 20 years found somewhere and gave the couple as a gift.
âThese are exactly the kind of clients we have,â she said. “They are like a big family.”
The parents of two children whose hair the couple cut gave them a Christmas decoration at church.
âAnd we kept it,â Myrtle said, showing it off from her proud spot in the store.
The couple have a 50-year-old Christmas tree on the back that they take out and use every year, she said.
âIt means a lot because these two little boys have grown up and become very successful people. The father was here yesterday to say his goodbyes,â Myrtle said.
âWe planned to take the plunge and not tell anyone. It was like a funeral, âMyrtle said of customers stopping to say goodbye. âWe had a client today who was a 57 year old client. They are upset. “
The couple slowed down last year, taking more time to socialize in the store and spending less time on the hair.
âPeople come in sometimes and just play checkers,â she said.
When they retire, Dan and Myrtle plan to travel when they are still young enough to enjoy it.
Dan will be 79 in August; Myrtle is a few years younger.
She says she wants a VW bus with flowers painted on the side for travel and on America’s back roads.
Dan said he planned to take his clients to two other barbers in town only to find their stores had closed.
Ultimately, Florence’s hair will be in good hands with places like the Mailroom – a new hair salon in Florence, he said.
âI don’t know what’s on the next corner, but we’ll take care of that no matter what,â Myrtle said as she wrapped a cake a customer had dropped off. She and the cake were heading home.