Small Business Spotlight: Maxim BarbersCharles Barrow took over ownership of Maxim Barbers in Decatur in July. He is working alongside his wife, Kathy, to make changes and open the barbershop again. They have reopened with many safety measures in place. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Decatur, GA – At just five years old, Charles Barrow knew he wanted to cut hair when he grew up. His father and grandfather both owned barbershops in Decatur and now it’s Barrow’s turn. He is the new owner of Maxim Barbers in Decatur which is now open.
Charles’ father began teaching him how to cut hair when Charles was 17. He became licensed in 1990 and has been a barber in Decatur since 1994.
“He’s the third Barrow since 1931 to own a barbershop in Decatur,” said Kathy Barrow, Charles’ wife.
The barbershop has been located at 218 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. for 10 years. It was Axiom Men’s Salon for the first two years and became Maxim Barbers in 2012 when Diane Fall became the owner.
Maxim Barbers shutdown in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Over the course of the closure, Fall retired and Charles took over in July.
Charles felt that, given the pandemic, the next owner of the barbershop had to be someone who has worked behind the chair, understands the pressures of barbering and who understood the increased responsibility an owner would have during COVID-19.
“This was done because I really loved the shop. I loved the people that worked here. They have become my family and it needed to be kept in the family,” Charles said. “If we were going to reopen, we needed to do it as safely as possible and that meant the safety of the barbers, the clients and the community because what we do in here, affects what happens out there.”
Both Charles and Kathy described the barbers and the clients as family and love the energy they create in the shop.
“The best lesson I learned is that you’re not so much making clients, you’re forging relationships. If you think about the 20 to 30 minutes that somebody spends in my chair every four weeks, over the course of two decades plus, that’s a lot of time,” Charles said.
He said they now have friends with whom they share hand-me-down baby clothes and hang out with. That friendship began when Charles was 24 years old cutting the hair of brothers who were 12 and 14 at the time. He said that is just one of many relationships that started in a barbershop.
“The real gain to me is not so much quantitative as it is qualitative because they have enriched my life through those relationships that I have forged,” Charles said.
Clients have also reached out to Charles and Kathy, and the other barbers, to check-in and ask if they need anything during the pandemic, especially when Maxim was closed.
“It’s more than a job. I was so touched by the amount of people that reached out,” Kathy said as she teared up. “It’s a community. It’s a family.”
“There is just something special about the people who come here and who work here,” Kathy added.
Maxim Barbers has officially reopened and has implemented many safety precautions which Charles said he is proud of.
“The reality is this is the new normal. It’s not going away anytime soon so the new normal is the safety of everybody,” Kathy said.
The shop used to be a walk-in barbershop but has now moved to appointment-only. Appointments can be booked online or over the phone.
“The appointments ensure that there is only one barber, one client at all times,” Kathy said.
Charles added that there is an exception for a parent bringing in children.
They have also removed the waiting area as well as two barber chairs. Curtain barriers are placed in between each chair.
Customers must wear a mask to enter the barbershop and may not take off during the appointment. The barbers will also check temperatures and ask clients a few COVID-19 questions at the door.
“This allows us to as much as we can gain control of the environment inside,” Charles said.
The barbers are now wearing disposable smocks and clients will wear disposable chair capes. Barbers are also wearing face masks and face shields.
“That means whatever gets on me during the course of the haircut gets disposed of so there’s no hair that will transfer from me to somebody else afterwards,” Charles said. “Of course because it’s a disposable cape, the cape that touches your skin will not touch somebody else’s skin.”
All of the stations are cleaned and sanitized between every client. Barbers will have time after every haircut to clean and sanitize their stations and tools are stored in closed drawers.
“In our appointment structure, we budget additional time so that when the barber finishes his haircut they have time to properly do all these things. So it’s a very, very diligent process of sanitization,” Charles said.
Charles explained that metal tools are cleaned with a germicidal spray and then placed under U.V. lights. Plastic and rubber combs are brushed off and then go through a two-stage liquid sanitation process.
“Nothing that touches someone comes back on the floor and gets used on someone else (until) it goes through a complete sanitization process,” Charles said. “I’m very proud of that because, speaking from a business point of view, the PPE (personal protective equipment), the disposable capes, those are all an additional expense which means our overhead is higher than it used to be.”
“The appointment structure and adding the sanitization process in means we have lower earning potential. We can only do a certain number of people a day, and I don’t care. To me, if I’m not doing the right thing, if I’m not doing the moral, ethical thing of exercising due diligence to safeguard the health of the community and the people that come in here then I don’t deserve that money. It’s very, very important to me that I put safety and the community over my personal concerns. It is a philosophy of greater good,” he added.
Kathy also said that these measures may seem excessive to others but they would rather be overly cautious than not cautious enough. She said the shop is doing everything humanly possible to try to keep everyone safe.
“We would not be doing this if we didn’t feel like it was safe for people to come in here. The people who we work with, we consider our family. We would not be putting these people at risk, putting them behind the chairs and back to work if we did not think it was safe,” Charles said.
Maxim Barbers is also adjusting its services during the pandemic. Currently, they have suspended beard trims and shaves and are only doing hair cuts.
“That particular (beard) service was very much a part of our identity. One of the scariest decisions I made coming in and taking over was suspending something that we’re known for. But right now anything that requires the removal of a mask presents too much of a risk factor,” Charles said. “I would not have suspended it unless I thought it was absolutely necessary so as soon as it is safe to do so, we will bring those services back.”
Maxim Barbers is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed on Sunday and Monday. Appointments can be booked online or over the phone at (404) 378-7877.
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