By Grace Sullivan
Found on Jackson Avenue right on the corner of the Square, Goolsby’s Hair World is one of Oxford’s most recognizable holes in the wall and could be considered a living piece of history.
With more than 40 years of operation under its belt and 30 in its current location, Goolsby’s is a family owned business that serves as a both a barber shop and a beauty salon for the folks of Oxford. Owner and head barber, Willie Goolsby, still works at the shop he bought in 1968, alongside his wife, daughter, and nephew.
“It’s Mr. Goolsby, he’s been my mentor,” said barber Greg Isaiah. “We learn from each other here, but we really learn a lot from him.”
When someone walks in the door at Goolsby’s, it’s hard for a newcomer to tell if he or she is another customer or an employee because the recurring clients walk in like they own the place. Isaiah attributes this comfortable atmosphere to the way the barbers treat people and interact with each other.
“My favorite thing about the atmosphere is that we set it; the barbers set the atmosphere,” Isaiah said. “When you walk through the door, you kind of feel it, so if you walk in here, you come back.”
Bobbie Goolsby, the owner’s wife and one of the top stylists noted that communication is key when it comes to fixing hair.
“[Through working here] I’ve learned how to communicate better with people,” Goolsby said. “I can talk to anybody, everybody, it doesn’t matter to me; I can get along with anybody.”
Mrs. Goolsby recounted, too, a story of a younger client who felt especially comfortable coming to Goolsby’s.
“I have a customer who went to school on campus, and she would just come in and take a little nap,” Goolsby said. “She told me, ‘I just feel so comfortable in here,’ and I said, ‘I appreciate that.’”
Isaiah, who has been working at Goolsby’s since he was fresh out of barber school nearly six years ago, believes that people skills are the most important thing he’s learned in his time as well.
“Being a barber, you’ve got to be a people person…you meet the good people, and you meet the bad people from every aspect or walk of life, Isaiah said. “You’ve just got to know how to conduct yourself—be friendly, and run a business.”
Lee Booker is Goolsby’s Hair World’s newest addition to the barber staff, having been working for a year and a half. Affectionately called “Puppy” by the other barbers, Booker is quickly learning the trade under the guidance of the experienced guys. The most important lesson he said he’s learned is, you guessed it: people skills.
“It’s almost like you’re a counselor; you’re a lot of different things,” Booker said. “A lot of people get in the chair with problems and you’ve got to talk to them, fix problems and things like that. They rely on you for a lot more than just hair cutting.”
Beside the welcoming atmosphere, Goolsby’s is set apart because of how established it is in Oxford. Whether it’s because of its location or its long-time presence, most in Oxford can tell you something about Goolsby’s.
“If you come from out of town this is the first place you stop,” Isaiah said. “It’s been here so long that everyone knows its here.”
Booker explained that most of the shop’s student clientele found themselves at Goolsby’s simply because of its location.
“A lot of students come here too—it’s right by the Rebel Bookstore, right on the square, about 5 minutes off of campus if that,” Booker said. “A lot of students actually do walk here; it’s not far at all.”
Its history as one of the best barber shops in town for 40 plus years makes Goolsby’s trustworthy for more than just hair.
“We’ll get new students in here and they’ll ask me where’s a good place to go eat,” Isaiah said. “I’m like the Yellow Pages in here because we’ve been here so long, and they’re thinking, ‘Yeah, he’s got to know.’”
Goolsby’s Hair World is operated as a family affair. Additionally, many clients like to keep it in the family. Mrs. Goolsby noted that she has had several generations of clients in a family, many of which she has passed on to her daughter Carolyn, who intends to run the shop after her parents.
Both Isaiah and Booker found themselves working at Goolsby’s after they had already been coming for years and years. Now, they get to be the ones to pass on a legacy to new generations
“I got my first haircut here, and I’m 37,” Isaiah said. “It’s cool that like, I get to give them their first haircut, and they remember that too.”
It’s clear to see that at Goolsby’s, the relationship between barber or stylist and client is the driving force behind the success of the business and the comfortable atmosphere.
“The people that come in, I appreciate them coming to me, and they appreciate me, so that’s comforting to let me know that I can satisfy some people you know,” Mrs. Goolsby said.” When I was going to school, they told me that some people will come to you just because they like you; it’s not always about the job.”
Mrs. Goolsby’s secret to success: be nice and like what you do.
“I like fixing hair,” she said. “I like what I do, and I tell everybody that you need to like what you’re doing in order to continue to do it.”
Kindness is another necessity Mrs. Goolsby advocates for.
“You be nice to people, and you be courteous to people, and most of they time, they’ll be courteous back to you,” Goolsby said. “Not all of them of, course, and that’s just what it is. You’ve got to take the good with the bad sometimes.”
Goolsby’s Hair World is located at 814 Jackson Ave. in Oxford. To learn more about Goolsby’s current events, visit the Facebook page “Gooslby’s Hair World,” and to support their upcoming renovations visit http://www.gofundme.com/3sztuc.
Follower of Christ. Newly confident. Speaker of my mind and heart. Journalism major, education reformer, forever a student.