Grandson continues his grandfather’s legacy, one cut at a time

·6 min read

A local man is honouring his grandfather’s legacy one snip at a time.

For more than 110 years, a small barbershop located at 31 Main Street has continued to stand the test of time.

While many barbers have cut hair in the small barbershop, one local man has left a legacy behind.

In May 1959, nineteen-year-old Vern Brown began what would turn into a lifelong career as a barber under the direction of Walter Armstrong, where he had operated the barbershop in Ridgetown since 1939.

Armstrong purchased the shop from the widow of the late Thomas Crouch, who was also a barber.

Brown, who had graduated from the system of Moler Colleges, worked with Armstrong for 17 years and eventually became the owner. The barbershop has been there for more than 110 years.

Vern Brown celebrated 50 years in the business in 2009. During an interview with the Independent News at this time, Brown reported when he started, the price of a haircut had just gone up to 90 cents. Brown said hairstyles had not changed that much over the years.

“Styles are pretty much the same, just different names for them,” said Vern.

Brown was committed to making his barbershop a place for people to come, not only for a haircut but for a visit.

“There have been a lot of good times in this shop over the years, especially during election times. There have been some hot discussions,” he said.

Despite dealing with health issues in his later years of life, Brown worked part-time at the shop. However, he often said he was never thinking about retiring. The local barber indicated he would continue barbering for some time to come – and he kept that promise right up until declining health stopped him from doing what he loved.

Although, during this time, he did manage to inspire his grandson in the hopes that he would take over his business.

On Sunday, January 23, Vern Brown passed away at the age of 81.

While a legendary barber with more than 60 years of experience is no longer with us, his grandson is eager to take over the reins and continue his legacy.

“I am looking to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. He put me on a mission to become a barber and showed me the ropes. He put in 62 years up here, so I’m looking to take over the reins and try and fill his shoes as best as I can,” said Josh Brown.

Vern’s Century Barber Shop is still open for business all these years later. The shop has kept a similar feel. Other than the man giving the haircuts behind the chair, not much has changed.

Currently, Brown is in the final days of completing his schooling, where he will become a licensed barber and ready to take over and cut hair in the same shop his grandfather has for more than a half-century.

He said he has done over 1,000 haircuts and learned from the best barber Ridgetown has ever seen. Despite this, Josh admitted he feels a tremendous amount of pressure.

“He was very good at what he did. The way he learned things is not taught these days. Hopefully, we’re gonna fulfill the shoes. What he desired was to see this stay in the family and remain a barber shop,” he said.

Josh said he learned many tricks and tips from his grandfather, who he believes has cut more than 200,000 haircuts in his 62 years cutting hair.

While he wishes he could have opened his doors sooner, the rules aren’t like they used to be. He said if you want to be a barber in Ontario, you must go through and take the hair styling program and hairdressing. Once you graduate from the hairdressing program, one must put in the hours, write the hair stylist’s licence and then they can go to work.

“There’s a lot more to it than people would think. It’s been a long road and long term, but here we are,” he said with a big smile.

The eager barber said the shop he will cut hair in screams traditional barbershop. He said he would love to keep things that way but understands this is a new generation.

“There are new trends to follow, and I was fortunate enough to go to school and learn a lot of these new trends with colour, perms, braids, and everything else. I’m open to learning, I’m open to trying new things, and we’ll see what it brings,” he said.

Josh said when his grandfather first began cutting hair, the cost of a haircut was 50 cents. Over the span of 62 years, it’s gone up to $10. Although the price went up little by little, Josh said Vern was always committed to providing the best haircut and customer service.

“That’s another thing my grandpa was known for. He charged the same price for everything, but that $10 got you the haircut, beard, eyebrows trimmed, nose hair trimmed, and he would even clean people’s glasses. He took care of everybody so much. He showed genuine care for people. That’s something that I to try and capitalize on because when you put your customers first, they appreciate it, and it goes a long way,” he said.

The 30-year-old barber said while he will offer more than just the usual haircut his grandfather mastered for so many years, a regular haircut will start at $15 with an additional $5 charge for a beard trim.

While he admitted there’s a long list of people to give thanks to, Josh said he is also thankful for everything he has learned throughout his time studying at the college. He said he wouldn’t be where he is today without his mentors, B.J. and Lisa, at Salon Styles.

When reminiscing on what he had learned from his grandfather, Josh said the biggest thing he has taken away was that there’s never been anyone else who cut hair the same way his grandfather did.

“There’s nobody else that I feel really cuts hair the way that he did. There are a lot of people who designate themselves as a Master Barber. My grandfather put in 62 years. I think that really speaks for itself. It’s a dying art and something I’d like to keep around. It really motivates me to try and carry that on and try to be unique,” he said.

According to Josh, cutting hair for Vern was never viewed as a job. It was his passion and eventually became a part of him.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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