Tom’s Barbershop celebrates 60 years of haircuts and community involvement in Greenwood
Stepping into Tom’s Barbershop is like taking a step back into times of Greenwood past. Not much has changed since the 1960s and 70s, aside from the growing number of photographs and memorabilia which cover the walls. Each item tells a story of not only the business’ beginnings, but of Greenwood’s athletic achievements and the community that helped grow the city to where it stands today.
Tom’s Barbershop will celebrate its 60th anniversary on July 30, 6 – 8:30 p.m. with open house with balloons, cupcakes, free popcorn, drinks, classic cars and a barbershop quartet.
Owner, Jeff Davis, said he likes to tell customers that they’re the “granddaddy of barbershops,” or, at least, one of the oldest, family-owned businesses in Greenwood still under the same ownership.
“I feel like the shop’s (success) is a tribute to my dad,” Jeff said. “This whole shop is really a tribute to my dad. I would never want to change the name.”
Tom Davis had a degree in business and industrial arts. In 1953, he helped start the first Indianapolis barber school in a high school at that time, at Harry E. Wood High School. When students began to graduate, Tom decided to open his own barbershop in 1956, in Green Acres on U.S. 31, bringing in the graduates and using it as a teaching tool.
“He had started with two of his former students,” Jeff said. “Dad would come and work after school. They had instant business.”
The barbershop gained and grew its business by its personal customer service.
“When a person come in and we didn’t know them, we asked them what their name was and we copied that down on a piece of paper for the day’s records,” said Tom Davis in a student-made documentary about the shop’s 50th anniversary in 2006. “We’d say, well, see if we remember you the next time you’d come in. Back then, people would get a haircut about every two weeks. What we’d try to do is picture this person in our mind and the automobile in which they drove… People like to be called by name, it’s personal.”
Tom built the shop at 338 Market Plaza in Greenwood in 1959 or ‘60.
“I grew up in this shop,” Jeff said. “I’d ride my bicycle here. My friends would stop by to get bubble gum, get cokes. I would sweep the floor and do some small stuff like that when I was little. I grew up loving the barbershop. It’s a place where the community met. There was always conversation.”
Jeff said his dad always wanted him to go to barber school, but since he was involved in so many sports at Greenwood Community High School, he didn’t want to leave. When Jeff graduated from Greenwood in 1972, he needed a summer job before leaving for Indiana Central University (University of Indianapolis). Tom sent Jeff to a private barber school during the summer time, earning the hours needed for his license within three summers.
“It used to be five straight chairs all in a row,” Jeff said. “When I was in college, styling was a big thing – where you shampoo and cut their hair wet. We built this area back here for me and another stylist and we took appointments. The front end was just walk-ins and it’s still that way today. Everything you see, dad and I built this. We would come here at night, put the floor in, put the wall in. It’s basically been like this since the 1970s.”
Jeff taught third grade at V O Isom Central Elementary School for 37 years. He would cut hair at his dad’s shop on Saturdays. Jeff also owns Video Maker Productions, filming sports highlights for Greenwood, music productions and dance recitals.
When Tom passed away in 2011, Jeff eventually retired from Greenwood schools and runs Tom’s Barbershop as part-owner. His mother, Rosaline, 90, is still part-owner.
While the décor hasn’t changed much, it has continued to grow. Pictures, trophies and other items are displayed throughout the entire barbershop, such as team photos of the Greenwood boys basketball sectional champions in 1940, ‘41, ‘61, ‘63, ‘66, ‘70, ‘91 and 2002.
“We like to put up pictures of local people,” Jeff said. “It used to be called a Wall of Fame. Someone would make sectionals, the state championship or something and we’d put their picture up. When dad started this shop, he’s put pictures of sectional championships. Then when we remodeled, we took all of that down. We decided, let’s put them everywhere and add to it. It’s been a work in progress.”
In the way of cutting men’s hair, Jeff said everything has come full circle. When the business first started, Tom mostly cut short hair, flat tops. In the 60s, men began letting their hair grow, but now more men have short hair and fades. What has changed the most is the growing industry in Greenwood.
“When the barbershop first opened, there were only three or four barbershops in all of Greenwood, where men went to get their hair cut,” Jeff said. “All the men went to barbershops. Today, we still have three or four barbershops, but now men can go to so many other choices like corporate franchises. Now there are probably 70 – 80 beauty shops that take men.”
Tom’s Barbershop has contributed to its community through its 60 years, through sponsorships with organizations such as Bantam Little League and Greenwood athletics or athletic scholarships.
“Our shop has that community feel,” Jeff said. “That’s one of our key factors for our success. Back in the day, dad used to give free haircuts to the basketball team when they won the sectional. ”
Jeff says many loyal customers have been coming to the shop for decades, and they continue to see new clients. Business is going well. Jeff said he’s looking forward to having the business open six days a week again, ask well doing some upkeep on the building to maintain its standing in the community for many more years to come.
“It is (still) the place I like to hang out,” Jeff said. “I love to talk to the customers. I see a lot of old teachers, friends. It’s fun to talk to residents about what Greenwood used to be like.”