Patrick continues family barbering legacy
Published 11:00 am Monday, November 14, 2016
Patrick’s Barber Shop is an old-school kind of place.
Located on East Washington Street in downtown Winchester, it’s an unassuming little building, built in front of the original owner’s house. There are two chairs inside along with a bench for those waiting their turn in the chair. There’s a TV in the corner and the usual stacks of magazines, though they skew toward automotive titles. Photos and memories line the walls and the mirror, including a framed photo of Azell Patrick with NASCAR legend Richard Petty at Daytona in 1969.
Todd Patrick clips away at a customer’s hair in the back chair. This afternoon, the customer is a wriggly, wiggly 4-year-old boy who has never been comfortable getting a haircut. It’s a workout for Patrick, who works quickly around the boy’s ever-moving head. The boy’s father steps in at one point, steadying his son for the last couple clips.
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Both agreed it was one of the boy’s better visits. After a moment, the next customer enters: an older gentleman ready for a haircut and a little relaxed conversation. The rest of the afternoon continues the trend.
For the last five years, Todd Patrick has kept the family tradition of barbering going. For 23 years prior, he worked side-by-side with his father Azell. Prior to that, both his great uncles were barbers as well.
It was not a career either set out to start, he said. Azell was working for the Chevrolet dealership in Campton when his great uncles convinced him to try barbering, Todd said. in the mid-1960s, Azell Patrick found the shop on East Washington Street.
“He just stopped by one day,” Todd said. “Bobby Hicks was working for Mr. (Wilbert) Williams.”
As Williams, the original owner who lived in the house behind the shop, began to suffer from health problems, Azell was asked to fill in.
“That was it,” Todd said. “He just stayed. Mr. Williams was never able to come back” and Azell purchased the shop.
For the last 50 years, Azell commuted from Campton daily, as Todd does today.
“Neither of us set out to do this,” Todd said. “He started because of his uncles. I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted my own body shop.”
The issue was Todd wanted to work on older cars rather than “Mitsubishis and Ford Tauruses,” he said. In the late 1980s, the market didn’t exist to support such a business, and Azell suggested he get his barber license as a fall back solution.
Getting established was a challenge, Todd said, as customers would wait for his father rather than trust a 19-year-old kid. Then it was working out the details between a father who wanted to open early and a son who wanted to open and stay later.
“All through that, he did his thing and I did my thing and we made it work,” Todd said. “Eventually it worked itself out. Now I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Through the decades, they worked side-by-side. Todd’s biggest fear, he said, was trying to maintain the business without his father. Health issues forced the issue, albeit gradually.
“After he’s gone … that was always my biggest fear,” Todd said. “God works that out. After he got sick in 2004, he started working three days a week.”
In 2008, Azell was out for a couple months and Todd carried the shop and the business by himself.
“Through that, I saw I’ve got to make it work,” he said.
Three years later, his father finally had to hang up his clippers.
“He had some minor strokes and it affected his eyesight,” Todd said.
He didn’t want to give it up.
“I watched his last haircut. It was a little blotchy in the back. (The customer) came back and I cleaned it up. At the end of the day, I said, ‘Dad, don’t you think it’s time to hang it up?’ He said ‘yeah.'”
Six months later, Azell died in January 2012.
Along the way, Todd had a change of perspective from hoping for slow days and getting upset by having to miss lunch, to knowing and accepting the responsibility and figuring out how to make it work.
Todd is still finding mementos of his father around the shop, including marks on the chair handle from his father’s ring or dimples in the chair base from his father’s wing tips when he would nudge the chair with his knee.
“It’s funny how God works things out for you,” Todd said.
Then the door opened and in walked the next customer.
“The usual today or are we doing something a little different? A little off the top?”
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