66 years in the business and he’s still cutting and trimming.
Local barber Jimmy Johnson has been in Santa RosaCounty all his life, since 1943. He cuts hair at the barber shop bearing his name next to the old Lee’s Meat Market with the cow on the roof on Stewart Street. He shared some of his story from plying his trade in Milton for the last 22 years and in the business for 66.
There wasn’t a shop in the area, according to Johnson, before he opened his door. Now, he said he has customers who are the grandchildren of customers he’s had years ago. “I enjoy what I’m doing. You’ve got to like it,” he said.
Johnson has been with customers through the passing of their husbands and wives and children. “You get attached.” At the same time, he said he’s had some customers to whom he’d give a kidney while others he doesn’t care for as much, but he added, “I’ll give you a good haircut whether I like you or not.”
Johnson said he started at $3 a trim, but eventually capped it at $8, a charge easily undercutting the competition today. He believes a haircut shouldn’t cost more than $8, but said without his social security income he wouldn’t survive. “I’ve got customers on a fixed income,” he said.
At the same time, his low price, he believes, is part of why he’s had trouble recruiting another barber. He said he’s been looking for someone for 10 years, but a new one must abide by his price cap.
Not only does Johnson give cuts, but he said he repairs them, too. He said he’s seen customers of other shops as far as Pensacola with poor haircuts come to him to get the right look. “They’re told to go to JJ to fix it,” he said. Johnson also pointed out he’s wary of new styles. “Sometimes I won’t do it,” he said, and even sent those insisting on a different style to other barbers.
Using a vacuum hose rigged to his electric clippers, Johnson keeps cleanup to a minimum. He said he’s got it rigged to a 65 horsepower shop vac. “I could suck the spots off a Dalmatian.” He also noted, as he cuts, “The vacuum pulls the hair into the blade.” The airflow, he said, also keeps him from having to oil his blades more than once a night. Johnson has his own techniques and style he’s developed over the last four decades in the business. He said he decided to use dishwashing detergent in addition to standard-issue phenol when he noticed how well it degreased his car. “The main thing in a shop is to keep it clean.”
The Jimmy Johnson Barber Shop is located at 5701 North Stewart Street. The shop’s phone number is 626-4297. The entrance is around the back.