Today, I told the woman I was seeing for 25 years goodbye. And it hurt. I texted my wife and told her that I was sad. She called me right away and asked if I cried when I told her. “Of course not,” I responded, but another few minutes in there, and I might have. My wife and I knew it was gonna happen, eventually. But, I was hoping it would last awhile longer. After cutting hair since 1975 (and 1981 at the same location), Osami’s Barber Shop is closing for good. My barber, Kinue-san (Osami’s wife), was finally retiring. (Osami himself had already retired in April.)
I’d been going there since the Fall of 1990, my freshman year in college, after recommendation from one of my best friends. Before Osami’s, I went to a neighborhood joint that was walking distance from my house. It didn’t take much to pull me away from that shop—a couple visits to Osami’s and there was nowhere else I was going for a haircut. My earliest recollections of the place was that I had to wait to be seen. Often hours. Appointment? What’s that? If you didn’t get there well before opening (at 8:30) and especially on weekends, you would have to make sure you dropped at least 2 hours-worth of change in the meter. Cars were lined up street-side up to an hour in advance.
Once in that barber chair though, you could expect a precision haircut like no other. Other barbers I’d been to would literally buzz me, and I’d be out in 15 minutes (or less). I didn’t feel like there was any value for their services. I guess you get what you pay for. On the other hand, Kinue-san’s precision was and is still unmatched. Back then, I had a flat-top (believe it or not). And yes, it did reach a decent height at some points. C’mon, it was the early 90s! The flat-top itself was difficult to cut “flat”. Kinue-san’s clipper control was sooo precise that I’m sure if I used a level, it woulda come out perfect. Ask me how I know. I made the mistake of getting it freshened up while I was away on vacation, and instead of a flat-top, I walked away with a Gumby. No, I wasn’t trying to be like Bobby Brown.
In addition to a couple different-sized electric clippers, she used various scissors, of course, and one of which was a surgical scissor. She was surgical indeed. One of the things she did as she finished up was to gently sweep the circumference of my head, snipping any small stray hairs with that scissor. Wow. Back in those days, she wrapped up with a warm (make that hot) towel on my face and neck. The final pièce de résistance was my sideburns and neck shaved with warm foam and straight razor. Once she slapped aftershave on, it stung for a hot-second but you felt (and looked) like a million bucks!
Today, I went in around 12:30 thinking that my wait on a Thursday would be minimal. I was wrong. I waited 2 hours. Well worth it, as usual. While I waited, I had a chance to look back at the person and place I’d been patronizing for 2+ decades. I’ve never been that loyal to any service provider. No doctors, dentists, CPAs, attorneys…none. It’s not just that she was the best at her craft, but she was also genuinely interested in me and my family. Point of fact: her handiwork is documented in all the life events that matter to me: my wedding, my children’s births, baptisms, vacations…you name it. I mean, just think about it: every picture over the last 20+ years with me in it, she had a hand in.
This Saturday, they will finally close their doors for good. I wonder how many people they’ve touched over the years? They stopped taking new clients years ago, as they started to wind down their business. I feel lucky that I was one of their regulars. I wish them all the best in their retirement. They’ll be surely missed!