Meet the ‘Mane’ Man
–by mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: APRIL 03, 2018
Larry Watkins is truly a “mane” and “Main” man. The barber and owner of Dale’s Barbershop moved to Sylvania in 1942. His family settled into a home on Main Street. “I lived on Main Street,” he recalled. “When it was time for me to have a place of my own, I relocated—precisely a half block from where I was. That’s the farthest I’ve moved in my life.” Watkins has been a barber in Sylvania for 52 years. “I am probably the oldest working person in this town,” he stated. “Dale, who died eight years ago, owned the place before I bought him out 30 years ago. The original barbershop was down the hill where the hotel is now located. We moved to our current location on Feb. 1, 1966, and have been here ever since. I will be here until I go.”
Being a barber was not his first career choice, more accurately his father’s initial choice. “My dad tried to get me into Machine Shop and then to work at the funeral home. I decided to go barber school,” he said. “I must be pretty good at it. I’m still cutting hair at 77 years old.”
His clients, like the 50-year-old wallpaper that hangs on the walls of Dale’s Barbershop, haven’t changed much over time. “I spend a lot of time at Reeb’s [Funeral Home]. Unfortunately, they are getting a lot of my clients,” stated Watkins. “I’ve lived here 76 years, and the biggest change in the community has been the development around here. It used to be nothing but farm fields. There was nothing past Convent Boulevard. Back in the day, there were 3,800 people living in Sylvania and there were three barbershops and seven barbers. Today there are 18,000 people in the city of Sylvania with two barbershops and three barbers.”
Watkins’ clientele is primarily age 65 and older. “My oldest man that comes here is 96 years old and my idol. I don’t have a huge amount of young people. When we first started out, you couldn’t get in here after school. I think kids tend to go to salons now, but I still have a nice group of young men as clients. They understand that this is a barbershop. Some of these cuts today, they skin the sides up and cut a part down a portion of it. I don’t do anything fancy. I do long and short. I also trim beards but basically, I cut hair. No styling or shampooing. This is not a salon.”
The best part of Watkins’ day is getting up and going to work. “If you like what you do, life is great,” he stated. “When you cut hair you get to have new experiences every day. I get to interact with my clients. I feel sorry for people who don’t enjoy what they do. As long as my legs hold out and my health is good, I will keep going. I don’t go fishing anymore and I never was a hunter. This is what I love to do.”
Watkins has taken four sick days in 54 years. “In this business, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. My bicycle is my “open” sign. This kid came in the door, and I remembered him. I have a pretty good memory. He said he wondered if I was still here and thought I could be dead. He said he saw my bike and just knew I still had to be here. I don’t care about the temperature. I ride if it is five-below zero. The only time I don’t ride my bike is if there is snow on the ground.”
M, Tu, Th, F
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
SUN and WED
“I only take cash and checks. I don’t take credit cards,” he reported. “In my opinion, if you don’t have $10 you’re in trouble.”
He has had very few complaints in the last five decades, but one he recalls vividly. “I had one of my clients come in and complain because I was closed and he had to go to a salon to get his hair cut. He said it was $35!” he recalled. “I asked him if he gave them a tip. He said, ‘Yeah, my tip is to never go there again!’”