A trip to Patrick’s Barber Shop comes with more than a haircut. It’s an experience — one chock full of nostalgia, personal touch and a familiar “What you say?,” as you walk through the door.
It’s a one-man show for Todd Patrick these days. After decades of working alongside his father, Azell Patrick, Todd has been keeping the family barbering tradition alive on his own for about eight years.
For Todd, the shop has always been home. He was born two years after his dad began the shop in 1966.
“I grew up around the shop,” he said. “We lived in Campton but in the summers I would come to work with my dad. I remember playing in the yard and visiting with the Williams family in the house next door.”
That was when Patrick’s was located in a tiny brick building at 15 E. Washington St.
These days, the barber shop calls 42 N. Main St. home.
“The bank next door (to the old shop) bought the property and decided to make it into a parking lot,” Todd said. “So we moved here.”
The new shop is the former location of the Green Lantern Pool room and boasts quite a bit more space than Todd is used to.
Todd said Patrick’s Barber Shop ended up in Winchester by accident.
“My dad had worked as a mechanic, he’d driven a truck for a little bit and he worked at the Chevy dealership in Campton for awhile,” Todd recalls. “His uncles, my great-uncles, were both barbers and they convinced him to go to barber school and give it a try. So that’s what he did.”
Azell was visiting a friend, Bob “Bird Man” Hicks at the barber shop there on Washington Street when he landed his first barbering job.
“My dad hadn’t been out of school very long and he stopped in that little shop to see Bob,” Todd said. “Bob said he knew he didn’t have a job yet and they needed help. Mr. Williams (who owned the shop) was sick. That’s how we started in that shop.”
Shortly after, Bird Man bought a shop on Main Street and Azell stayed at the Williams’ shop.
“Mr. Williams got really sick and saw that he wasn’t going to be able to come back, so he offered the business to my dad and he bought it that year,” Todd said. “Then he just kept renting the building from the Williamses.”
Todd started barbering in 1988, just after he graduated high school.
“I graduated in 1987 and my dad said, ‘Why don’t you go to straight to barber school and get your license as a fall back?” Todd said.
Todd had a passion for cars, especially old Corvettes and Chevelles, and thought he would eventually make a career working on them. But, barbering as a second option sounded like a good idea.
“So that’s what I did,” Todd said. “I still wanted to work on cars, but I knew I had a barbering job waiting for me when I got out of school and I could do that until I could make something with cars work.”
The more Todd worked in the shop, the less he found working at an auto shop appealing.
“At that time I wanted to work on older cars,” he said. “In the 1980s, you couldn’t make a living working on just those things, you had to work on everyday cars and I thought if I work on every day cars for a living every day, I won’t want to work on the old stuff for fun as a hobby.
“So I thought barbering might not be a bad gig.”
The gig didn’t come without its challenges though.
Todd said it took time to work up a clientele, especially considering so many people were loyal to his dad’s barber chair.
“Working with my dad, he had his own customers and everyone was talking about the weather and aches and pains and I’m 19, 20, 21 years old. It was a little bit of an adjustment,” Todd said. “He pretty much just said you do your thing and I’ll do mine and I eventually got my own business, my own people coming to me and waiting on me. But for a good bit when I first started, everyone waited on him. They didn’t want a 19-year-old kid cutting their hair. I had to work through that stuff.”
Todd said there were several years he didn’t really even like barbering, and it took awhile for him to master the skill.
“The first several years that I worked with my dad there I didn’t really like it and I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out,” he said. “But after six or eight years, I saw that it might work, and as the years went on, it did work.”
Azell got older and eventually got sick and was unable to work full-time. He gave his last haircut in 2011 and passed away in 2012.
Since then, Todd has been running the shop on his own, but keeping his father’s memory and the family tradition alive.
“It was tough doing it all by myself (at first) because there’s no breaks,” he said. “You stand right here for nine or 10 hour straight.”
Part of keeping his father’s memory alive is maintaining the same feel for the shop. That’s why Todd still uses the same barber chairs — his dad’s sits empty next to his — and the same row of red-upholstered waiting chairs that are cracking from five decades of use.
“I’ve got all his stuff,” Todd said. “The chair is the chair he used for 45 years. Every dime he made came of out this cabinet right next to my station. Nearly everything in the current shop is original to the former shop.”
Beyond the physical parts of the shop that remain, what is most important to Todd is maintaining the integrity of the business and serving his family’s loyal customers.
“There are several families of five generations that I’ve done and then I guess my dad too. A lot of gray-haired men — myself included — have sat in that chair right there,” he says as be points at the vintage Tom Thumb chair that has been with the business for more than 50 years. “That’s funny to think about the men that are grandpas or maybe even great grandpas who have set in that chair.”
For Todd, it’s all about the people, the community.
“It’s so much fun to interact every day with the people,” he said. “There are so many different personalities. And a lot of times, something as simple as a haircut makes a big difference to someone and you don’t always realize that.”
And while people appreciate a good haircut, Todd feels like he gleans as much from the experience.
“That’s the whole thing that keeps us going is the people,” he said. “Without people coming in to get a haircut, I’m not here. For 53 years the people here have supported me and my family. I really can’t thank the people enough for sticking with us. I know the other shop was small and it was kinda cruddy, the roof leaked, the air conditioner was questionable and people would still pile in there six or eight deep and wait an hour or more to get their hair cut. That means a lot that they keep coming back and coming back, generation after generation of loyal just good people not only that you tolerate but genuinely good people I consider my friends.
“That makes it worth it.” §