Every night, when Kevin Armstrong closes up His Barber Shop, he takes a look around and says, “Goodnight, Mr. Staples.”
The manager of the Barracks Road Shopping Center landmark is referring to Albert Staples, who founded the local landmark in downtown Charlottesville in 1923. And on Saturday, the community can join him to mark 100 years of cuts, camaraderie and community spirit.
Saturday’s fun, which begins at noon, will include music by a barbershop quartet and some refreshments. Customers past and present who drop by the former Staples’ Barber Shop, now His Barber Shop, are likely to see the familiar faces of retired barbers.
Albert Staples’ shop was one of the first tenants of Barracks Road Shopping Center in 1959. Son Ken Staples eventually took the reins of the family business, keeping the traditions strong, and after his death in 2017, Chris Bryant — the shop’s first woman barber, hired in 2015, and the current owner — stepped up. She chose the name His Barber Shop to honor Ken Staples.
Early in his career, Armstrong worked with Staples’ alongside a team of experienced barbers, absorbing valuable lessons about customer service and building community. The deep sense of tradition in the barbering community always was strong at Staples’, he said.
“This barbershop has been part of my life for a long time. I was here in all the ‘90s and early 2000s,” Armstrong told The Daily Progress. “Most of the time was with the same crew. Back when I was working with [Albert Staples] in the ‘90s, he was seeing customers he’d worked with in the ‘50s.”
Armstrong later moved to South Carolina with his wife, but when the opportunity arose to serve as manager of the Charlottesville institution, he said, he couldn’t get back to the city quickly enough.
These days, a staff of six full-time barbers treats men to pampering service, neighborly conversation and a healthy helping of tradition.
“We joke and cut up and stuff, and it makes it a more pleasurable experience,” Armstrong said.
University of Virginia alumni make their way back whenever they’re in town. Locals who spun in the chairs as children now bring their own sons and grandsons. Strangers become friends as good-natured conversations draw in everyone.
“It’s a great vibe,” Armstrong said. “It’s just the traditional down-home barbershop.”
Visiting a barber instead of a stylist offers gentlemen a satisfying experience they can’t always find elsewhere, according to His staff.
“The difference is we do the complete haircut, but we also focus on eyebrows, ear hairs, nose hairs and the back of the neck. Then there’s the hot lather and the hot towel.”
Armstrong chuckled. “Some of them like the hot towel more than the haircut.”
Some customers may be more well known than others — NFL star Howie Long and Grammy Award winner Dave Matthews — but all the customers are welcome, and welcoming to each other, said Armstrong. “We get a lot of UVa lacrosse, baseball and football players.”
On Friday, UVa football standout and NFL star Heath Miller was in Armstrong’s chair, and they chatted about the NFL draft. Other customers joined the conversation.
“It doesn’t get better than that,” Armstrong said.
“We still have men bring their sons in on Saturdays and say, ‘Remember me? My dad used to bring me here.’ They bring their grandsons. It kind of makes me feel old, but that’s the way it is in a barbershop.”
Armstrong’s family lives in the Shenandoah Valley. They call him “the Barber of C’ville,” he said. And he’s always proud.
“I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else than Charlottesville,” he said.
The 100th-anniversary celebration is from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday outside His Barber Shop.