People visit barber shops for two reasons ━ the haircuts and the conversation. For 60 years, Coy Young has been providing customers at Young’s Barber Service with both.
“I think some of the customers like his storytelling personality,” said Cindy Smith, Young’s daughter. “It’s the atmosphere in the barber shop too, the conversations that people have with each other. Dad could be your barber, your counselor and your comedian. He did it all.”
Recently, Young decided to put down his shears because of ongoing shoulder pain, but the conversations he started at the shop are ongoing. This time though, the discussions are about him and his legacy.
Smith said her grandfather, William “Ralph” Young, originally opened Young’s Barber Service in 1927 at a different location. The shop later moved to 3801 Fairystone Highway, across from the old Bassett Furniture Central Warehouse.
Coy Young joined the family trade in 1961.
“Grandpa started it, and other barbers have been in and out, but dad came along and since he started, he’s been at its current location,” Smith said. “Dad went to barber school in Roanoke and began cutting hair in 1961. In the beginning, he was also serving in the National Guard, so he’d juggle both.”
Since starting, Coy Young has been a mainstay in the community, with many patrons dropping by at the crack of dawn.
Josh Marlowe, a barber at Young’s Barber Service, said Coy Young opened the doors at 4 a.m., and customers soon followed.
“He felt like it was important for people that lived local, but worked out of town, to have a way to get a haircut in the mornings,” Smith said. “He was always an early-to-bed and early riser.”
“He probably has 20-25 customers a day that comes specifically for him,” Marlowe said.
Marlowe said when he first started at the barber shop, most customers came to see their preferred barber, which made it difficult for him to build up his own clientele.
“Unbeknownst to me, Coy would be hiding in the back and waiting them out until they would finally take a chance on another barber,” Marlowe said. “After I got them in the chair, he’d come back out. I finally realized he was doing it for that reason. I thought it was a real stand-up thing for him to do. You can’t find a better man than Coy Young. He’d do just about anything for you.”
With Coy Young retiring, Marlowe said regular patrons now will be split between him and fellow barber David Helms.
“It’s going to be awfully quiet with Coy not here. He’s the biggest joker around,” said Nanny Beth, who is known around the shop as Granny. “I’ve been coming here since the 70s and he (Young) has always been here. You could always count on him to liven up your day with one of his many stories. It won’t be the same without him, that’s for sure.”
Beth said it was Coy Young that first gave her the moniker ‘Granny.’
“I was in here bragging about my grandbaby and Coy had a grandchild but wasn’t going to tell me. His grandchild was hiding in the back when I was going on and on about mine,” she said. “So, she comes out, not knowing what is going on, and tells it on him. It’s been Granny ever since.”
The two even had their own bartering system.
“He always liked it when I’d come in with a bag of walnuts. He said he’d cut hair any day for a pound of walnuts,” she said with a chuckle.
It’s not just the older generation that will miss Coy Young’s presence around the shop either.
Clay Coleman, a senior at Magna Vista High School, said the barber always livened up his day.
“I was probably about 10 when I first started coming here, so it’s been about eight years that I’ve known Coy,” Coleman said. “I remember one time he gave me a buzz cut and when he got done, he spun the chair around and said, ‘I call that a boy scout haircut.’ I just started laughing.”
Coleman later achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
“You’re always sure to get a story from him,” Coleman said. “Usually, he waits to the very end with the punchline that’ll have you about to fall out of the chair.”
Smith said her father worked hard to ensure everyone was welcome in his shop.
“One thing I think is important about dad is that he said the atmosphere in the barber shop was going to be family friendly and the language clean,” Smith said. “He studied his Bible when he had quiet time. I think a lot of people that stop by to talk are friends but there are those that come for counsel. He has led people to Christ there and ministered to others that people would turn away. He would stop in mid-haircut to pray for a customer that needed prayer.”
The shop also seemed like a second home to Smith.
“The barber shop was just like a second home because if we had been at church, we’d swing by the barber shop and take care of business, then we’d come home. We were all in and out of it,” Smith said, referring to it as “the Mayberry life.”
With her father’s retirement, Smith can’t help but reminisce about simpler times.
“I remember going to school when it was still Bassett High School across the river,” she said. “We would be at the barber shop together as a family, getting ready to go to a football game on a Friday night.”
As the area has changed over the years, the one thing that remained the same was the barber shop.
“It’s been a constant in the community, as far as the businesses that are there,” Smith said. “I’m a member of the group ‘Bassett Looking Back, Moving Forward’ and to see the businesses that are no longer there, and for the barbershop to be a mainstay, is really nice.”
With Coy Young stepping away from the family business, it’ll be the first time in six decades that a chair in the shop doesn’t have the name “Young” above it.
“Someone else owns the shop now,” Smith said. ” I do have a sister but none of our children are looking to go into barbering. There were many years where daddy was the only chair in the barber shop.”
Young, meanwhile, is finding ways to stay busy.
“He’s a hard worker so he’s staying busy around the house,” Smith said. “He’s also making mama very happy with things like being able to go out to breakfast and have evenings with friends. It’s giving all of us more family time in the evening.”
True to his personality, Coy Young still finds time to shoot the breeze in the barber shop.
“A week and a half in, he’s already gotten bored,” Marlowe said. “He’s already been by a few times just to come by and talk.”