Mack Warren retires, passes down barber shop to Rogers

Warren to Rogers: "Remember that about half the people who come in here are coming for the conversation – and then they get a haircut while they are here"
By Julianne Kuykendall | Mar 02, 2014
Photo by: Julianne Kuykendall PASSING THE SHEARS: Mack Warren, left, passes over the barber shears to Luke Rogers, who began working in Warren's barber shop in Bethel today. Mack Warren, along with his brother, Ray Warren, retired on Friday.

An historic moment happened at Mack Warren’s Barber Shop located in Bethel at the intersection of U.S.110 and U.S. 276 last week.

On Friday, Feb. 28, Mack Warren locked the door to his barber shop for the last time after almost 57 years of barbering and handed the keys to Luke Rogers who started cutting hair at the familiar barber’s chair.

“You’ll have to lock the door with the key so you won’t get locked out,” said Warren, 80, to Rogers in a grandfatherly sort of way as he welcomed the young barber.

“I’m real glad Luke is here,” said Warren, noting that his brother, Ray Warren, also retired alongside him.

As Rogers took the keys, he said he felt very honored.

“Those are very big shoes to fill,” said Rogers, grandson of Don Rogers, a local barber in Haywood County who passed away in 2004.

On a recent afternoon during Warren’s last week in the shop, long-time customers Jack Kaufman, Junior Hightower, Jonas Gunter, Doug Crawford and Lee Freund chatted easily and reminisced about coming to the shop for the past 28 years as they waited for their last haircut. They agreed that the daily barber shop banter includes all kinds of topics like farming, racing, fishing, gardening, hunting, and who has gotten married or died that week.

“We find out all our news in here,” said customer Jonas Gunter.

“Mack knows his customers real well and if he knows they are a Republican or a Democrat, he will start an argument on purpose and get it started and then he will change sides,” said Gunter.

Customer Doug Crawford likes it when Warren jokes with his customers about getting a discount.

“Mack tells them that a one-eyed man don’t get a cut at the movies, so a half-bald man doesn’t get a cut at the barber,” said Crawford with a laugh.

“If I had a tape recorder to tape the conversations that have gone on, I wouldn’t have had to work for the past 10 years because I could have sold them tapes and made a whole lot more than I could have barbering,” said Warren, jokingly.

Oftentimes, Warren was also known for pulling out historical books for his customers — one was a cemetery book that included a listing of headstones in Haywood County in alphabetical order and another was a Haywood County census book.

“I’ve learned more about this area and met more nice people sitting here in this barber shop then anywhere in the area,” said customer Lee Freund.

After graduating from the Winston-Salem School of Barbering and cutting hair for over five decades, Warren says he has been “talked to, talked about, throwed off on and bragged about,” but he has never once dreaded going to work.

He said the funniest thing in all his years of barbering happened one day when a man with real curly, thick hair came into his shop and wanted Warren to cut his hair the same way Warren’s boss had cut it — real close around the ears and leave it real bushy on top.

“Well, I thought his hair looked like the atomic bomb had went off so I altered his hair cut,” said Warren. “When I turned him around to the mirror, he said, ‘That’s the sorriest hair cut I’ve ever seen — you can’t cut hair and you can’t even follow instructions!”

“Well my boss chewed me out but the next time that man came in, he kicked my footrest and asked, ‘Well, ain’t you gonna offer to cut my hair? Cut it exactly the way you cut it last time — my wife said that was the best hair cut I’ve ever had!’” said Warren.

While customers will always remember Warren’s humor and stories, many in Haywood County will remember him as a barber who took his job well past his barbering chair. In fact, anytime a customer of Warren’s was in the hospital, home-bound, or in the nursing home, he drove to wherever they were and cut their hair — a genuine act of kindness that brought many customers and their family members to tears.

“When I was in the VA hospital in Oteen, Mack came out and cut my hair, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when he walked into the room,” said Freund, while Gunter humbly recalled the time Warren cut his hair at home after he underwent open heart surgery.

He also has driven to funeral homes for over 50 customers and cut hair in preparation for burial.

“Even after he retires, Mack will keep going to cut hair for his sick and home-bound and nursing home customers and keep going to cut hair at the funeral home as long as he can,” said Lola, Warren’s wife.

As Warren gave Rogers a few tidbits of advice before he left, his words made Rogers chuckle.

“One thing I want to tell you, Luke, is that haircuts are like automobiles and girls — what would tickle one guy to death, the other one wouldn’t want,” said Warren.

“Also, always remember that about half the people who come in here are coming for the conversation — and then they get a haircut while they are here,” he said.

While Warren enjoyed passing down his words of wisdom to Rogers, he is passing down much more to the young barber than any words of advice can ever express.

He is passing down a rich legacy of the relationships he has built behind his barber’s chair in almost 57 years. That legacy is symbolized in customers like Junior Hightower, who drove 40 miles from Transylvania County every time he needed a haircut. Why would a customer drive 40 miles to get a haircut? That’s simple, according to Hightower.

“Mack came and cut my Daddy’s hair when he was sick,” said Hightower, as he sat in Warren’s barber chair one last time.

When he left, he shook Warren’s hand and promised to bring apples to him in the fall, a gesture that said Warren’s presence in the shop wouldn’t end with his retirement.

“Nah, Mack’s wife won’t let him stay home — he will still be here,” said Gunter.

When he locked the shop on Friday, he knew he would miss the people.

“I’m going to come back and visit if Luke don’t run me off,” said Warren.

“You’ve got to come back — there’s got to be somebody to tell the stories,” said Rogers.