“I had a cheap haircut somewhere else once, and well, that’s just what I got, a cheap haircut,” customer David Pruitt chuckled, sitting in the large cutting chair at Burd’s Barber Shop in Franklin.
“And we can always fix that,” added Barber Paul Burd, as the snipping sound of scissors buzzed around Pruitt’s head.
“Here, I come home and have it just the way the wife likes it,” Pruitt shot back.
Owner of the shop for the last 14 years, Burd has become a focal point in Macon County, with people coming from the farthest reaches of Western North Carolina and out-of-state to take a seat, relax and let the barber work his magic.
“If you have two ears, we can balance it,” he said. “I have people I see every nine days, every fourth months, or once a year. It all varies.”
With endless traffic streaming by the windows of the business on West Palmer Street, there is a constant trickle of folks looking for an old-fashioned lowering of the ears.
“I like it here because we share the same last name,” smiled customer Jim Byrd. “It’s quick; I’m in and out; and it’s a good time for some meditation.”
The quaint store seats a half dozen, while stacks of hunting, fishing and muscle car magazines are within an arm’s reach. Innumerable license plates from across the country line the walls, each with a back-story, each given to Burd from a loyal customer who has either moved to the area or on occasion are passing through town.
Amid these tokens of appreciation is a wooden rendering of Barney Fife, the absentminded police officer from The Andy Griffith Show. It was given to Burd from a customer that didn’t have any money to pay for a haircut as a trade for his services.
“That’s what happens sometimes when you’re in a small town,” he said. “You have to a do a little bartering. I’m always up for a trade if the item is right.”
Originally from Vero Beach, Fla., Burd was raised in a barbershop. His father was a barber for 47 years, while Burd himself figures he’s been in the business around 26 years. He remembers being in his father’s shop, sweeping up the floors and getting 50 cents for emptying out ashtrays or taking out the trash. Though the memories were fond, Burd never thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I didn’t think this was going to be the plan I was going to have in life,” the 56-year-old said. “But, sometimes life throws you a curve, and you have to play it. And that’s what I did, and it turned out well.”
With his dad’s health failing, Burd went to barber school to get his license and take over the family business. Eventually, he left Florida and moved to Franklin with his wife and two daughters. He likes the area because, to him, the people are easy to get along with, not to mention the majestic Great Smokies right in his backyard.
“It’s the people. Everybody who comes through that door is from a different walk of life,” he said. “The stories you hear, the people you deal with, it’s not like working on an assembly line. Every head of hair is different.”
Burd points out the importance of making a good first impression, how you only get one and how it can make all the difference in a situation with just the right haircut.
“I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had over the years rush in here for a haircut because they had a court appearance in an hour,” he laughed.
Reflecting on his father and the advice he gave him, Burd said he was always told that “if in doubt, leave it longer because you can always cut more off.” It’s about understanding your client and knowing exactly how to make them comfortable.
“Some people come through that door and they want to have communication,” he said. “And some people walk in and they need that ten or fifteen minutes of peace from their day. You have to be able to read them.”
Yes, others may go to the mall or salon for a trim, but for those that cherish the beloved small town barber, with the comradery and tradition it holds, Burd is grateful for the continued support everyone has shown him since the first day he stepped into Franklin. It’s about quality over quantity, with Burd chock-full of the former.
“You build a clientele that can be three generations long, where a father brings his kids here, and then his grandkids,” he said. “I enjoy this profession, and I plan on doing it for as long as I can.”