Stepping into Donald Roberts’ barbershop is like taking a step back in time.
His is an old-style country barbershop where everything is done old-school, with three old-fashioned Belmont chairs with the standard back bar and sinks; haircuts given using only combs, clippers, and sheers; shaves provided using straight razors sharpened with leather belts and shaving cream lathered to a foam; hot towels and skin softener provided beforehand; and of course, friendly conversation with Southern hospitality.
For 44 years, Roberts has owned and operated his shop where he has cut the hair and shaved the faces of generations of Fort Meade residents.
Very little has changed with his shop until recently when Roberts retired and sold it to his assistant, Danny Lane.
A Fort Meade resident, Lane currently resides in Bartow and has been working at the barber shop for 10 years.
Having worked under Roberts for more than a decade, Lane knows his former employer and his shop well enough to continue his work.
“He’s been here for 44 years so he’s doing something right,” Lane said. “He’s a very good people person who enjoys talking with other people.”
Roberts continues to pop into his former shop now and then to offer his assistance and for the occasional shave and haircut, but has otherwise handed over all operations to Lane, in whom he has the fullest confidence of carrying out his legacy.
“He is a good, honest, hard-working fellow,” Roberts said. “He is very conscientious about cutting hair and he meets the public really well.”
While Roberts assures his customers that everything with his shop will remain the same under new management, he understands that they may feel differently about it.
“My old customers say it almost doesn’t seem right,” Roberts said. “They just say it seems different not seeing me all the time.”
Having run his shop for more than four decades, Roberts has serviced most every Fort Meade resident along with their children and their children’s children.
For the DeVane family, he has cut more than five generations of hair, and being able to watch the children grow up and see what they do with their lives has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his job.
Every face that steps through his door he recognizes and knows by name, even the northern snowbirds who travel to Fort Meade for the winter.
One of his oldest and first customers since day one has been Brent Briskill, a lifelong friend and fellow miner from his former phosphate mining days, not to mention a willing test subject on whom he had practiced cutting hair while in barber school.
“He cut my hair when he went to barber school and he is still cutting it today,” Briskill said. “He just cut it last week. He’s a good guy as far as I can tell you.”
Getting to work with so many people and relate to them on a personal level has been his favorite aspect of his job, and will be the one he misses most now that he has retired.
To this day, the shop has remained a local favorite where everyone knows everybody, where residents can come in, meet, talk, joke, and overall kick back and have a good time.
“If you come to this barber shop and you don’t want to have a good time, you’ve got a problem because we like to have fun,” Roberts said.
A lifelong Fort Meade native, Roberts lives only a block and a half from his old childhood home on Church Street where he was born on Sept. 26, 1948.
After graduating from Fort Meade High School in 1967, he worked at the phosphate mines for about six months before the harsh working conditions prompted him to become a barber.
Upon graduating from Tampa Barber College in 1969, he opened his barbershop on 112 W. Broadway Ave., where he remains.
Very little has changed with his shop and how it’s run with the exception of new rules and regulations.
Running a simple occupation from such a humble location, Roberts has remained satisfied with the simple things in life, considering his greatest accomplishments to be paying his bills in full, putting his wife and children through school, and all the while not incurring any debt.
Now that he has retired, Roberts plans on taking life easy with his wife, three sons, and daughter, as they do some traveling and he revels in the great outdoors with fishing and hunting.
But even in retirement, his heart will always go out to his former shop and customers, and he will miss the business and friendship he has garnered there over the years.
“I just want to thank all the people for letting me cut their hair through the years,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it for 44 years, and I’ve never regretted doing it.”
Robert’s Barber Shop is located on 112 W. Broadway Ave. and is open weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed on Wednesday and Sunday.