Barbering with Love

IMG_5479

Identical eyeballs lean in to inspect the silver hairline of Richard Rhodes.

“Should I bring it in a little on the right, Fay?”

“No, Kay, I think that looks good.”

With a brandish, the black fabric covering Rhodes is removed to reveal a barber chair, circa the 1930s. Rhodes’ hand moves toward the clear, glass cookie jar to his left, scratching the bottom of the container for a Tootsie Pop.

“It’s the best part about getting my hair cut,” he says as he tosses thewrapper into thetrashcan.

Fonda Fay Baugher and Sandra Kay Baugher move with ease around Fay’s Barber Shop, constantly laughing and joking with one another. Located on North Liberty Street in downtown Harrisonburg, the shop has two rooms: a waiting area — complete with a couch, a TV and a magazine rack — and a mirrored room with two barber chairs and a 75-year-old lather machine.

About nine years ago, Fay bought a pre-existing shop on West Water Street from a well-known Harrisonburg barber named George Puffenbarger, and her business has flourished since.

In 2011, because the new shop was so successful, Fay asked Kay, her identical twin sister, to come work with her.

“Training to become a barber is hard work,” Fay says. “You have to find someone to shadow for 18 months and then take a written test.”

Because female barbers are rare, Fay had a difficult time finding someone to train her.

“I asked around for years with no luck,” Fay says. “Finally, in 2009, I began training with a man in Waynesboro, Virginia, and eventually got my barbers license.”

Fay then trained Kay, and they opened another barber shop in Elkton together called Twins.

Today, Fay owns the shop in Harrisonburg and co-owns Twins with Kay.

“Have you been behaving?” Fay asks her next customer with a laugh. “If not, I’ll have to give you a lecture.”

Customers come in and sit in chairs that were once used in old-fashioned barber shops. Kay’s chair even has a cigarette ash tray on the right arm. The room is filled with historic knick-knacks from previous barber shops: a bottle from the 1940s that reads “toilet water” sits next to a mirror, a newspaper clipping about a local barber, Higgie Hickenbottom, who gave 25-cent haircuts hangs on the wall and an old official barber shop sign which sits in the front window.

It isn’t just the historical aspect of the shop that makes it special — it’s the women who run it. Born on September 7, 1953, Fay and Kay are best friends and twins with a unique love for cutting men’s hair.

“We grew up doing it,” Kay says.

With three brothers, a father and a neighborhood full of children, they acquired a knack for barbering that followed them both into adulthood.

“I used to cut my boyfriend’s hair all through high school,” Kay says.

The two work together during the week and play golf whenever they can on the weekends. They were pregnant at the same time, they both love to interact with people and, most importantly, they love being together.

“Growing up, I tried to be the dominant one,” Kay laughs.

“She was always so bossy,” interjects Fay.

The pair meshes well, as both business partners and sisters.

The Harrisonburg shop welcomes back numerous regulars, including Pat Trimble, a local firefighter who was consistently disappointed with the haircuts he received from beauticians. He finally found Fay and has been coming to the Harrisonburg shop ever since. He always gets a flat top, a notoriously difficult cut in which the hair on top of the head is cut to lay completely flat, while the hair on the sides is shaved down.

“I am very particular about my hair; that’s why I come here,” Trimble says. “I’ve had holes in my hair and some pretty terrible haircuts that I’ve just walked out on. Fay always does a great job on my flat top.”

Joshua Byrd, a Harrisonburg High School student, convinced his entire family to come to Fay’s Barber Shop.

“I’ve been coming to the shop since it was on Water Street,” Byrd says. “My whole family would go to breakfast every Saturday, and I would leave early

and walk over to get my hair cut. Pretty soon all my brothers — even my dad — started coming to Fay’s.”

From men in toupees to entire families, Fay and Kay have encountered interesting people. They’ve even ventured to funeral homes to cut the hair of deceased customers, at the request of family members.

“I once drove all the way to Frederick, Maryland, to cut the hair of one of my favorite customers who was very sick,” Fay says. “I got word he passed away right after I left. I thought highly of this particular customer, and it meant a lot to me to go all the way to Maryland to help him.”

According to Fay, barbering can be cutthroat in other shops, but that isn’t the case at Fay’s Barber Shop. The twins work in harmony, talking, laughing and truly enjoying themselves.

Their favorite part about working in a barber shop?

“We love to see all the men who come in,” Fay laughs.

“Oh yes,” Kay says with an earnest nod. “We love our job. We love our job and we love men.”

There’s an inexplicable ambiance inside Fay’s Barber Shop — a mood that lingers in the air. It’s the rare feeling that comes from being in the presence of two people so extraordinarily bonded together.

“They’re very professional, and very particular about what they do,” says Trimble. “And they’re great to talk to. Eventually they’ll find out how many kids you have and they’ll ask about your family.”

Fay and Kay’s infectious laughter constantly echoes through the quaint shop, and every customer who comes in can’t help but laugh along with them.

“You can be in a bad mood,” Fay says. “And a customer can come in and turn you whole day around.”

The one thing anyone who walks through the door of Fay’s Barber Shop will undoubtedly notice is the smiles that reside on every customer’s face as they exit the shop.

“I love these ladies,” Rhodes says. “They do a great job, and that’s why I always come back.”