Local Georgia avenue barber shop holds legacy with D.C. residents
It’s 11 a.m. Saturday and laughter fills the air of Van & Frank’s Barber Shop on Georgia Avenue in northwest Washington. The shop door opens. “What’s up ya’ll?” a young man asks, greeting the patrons in the shop. James Harrison, a 21-year old student at Prince George Community College, sits in a chair awaiting his weekly haircut. “What’s going on Mr. Baker?” Harrison greets the shop’s co-owner Van Baker. “Nothing much son, trying to keep up with you and those ladies,” Baker replies. The whole shop full of young andold men who begin to burst into laughter.
This is the typical Saturday morning for Van and Frank’s Barber shop. Early in the morning until the sun goes down the shop is full of customers, those who are there for haircuts and some who are just there to socialize.
Barber shops play major roles in thelives of young men across the country. “I grew up in this shop,” James Harrison explains during his haircut. “I remember the first time my daddy brought me in here. I was six, and I have not missed a week yet.”
Van & Frank’s Barber shop is locatedat Georgia Avenue and Keefer Place in northwest Washington. The partners opened their shop in the summer of 1976. Baker revealed that the building has always been a barber shop. “The men who owned this place before us were barbers,” he said. “I believe they opened the shop in the 1950s.”
For 30 years, Van and Frank’s remains one of the most successful and longest-running barber shops on Georgia Avenue. “We have a strong clientele,” Baker said. “I havecustomers who still come here from the seventies.” Two other barber shops are a block away. “Of course there has been competition over years,” Baker acknowledged. “Times have changed. The hairstyles young men have adopted over the years have given some of these new shops opportunity to make money. The younger barbers have shops that dread, twist and braid. I guess you can call us old school; we stick to the basics.”
“You would be surprise how many peoplelike it the old fashion way,” he added, noting that business is still booming.
Along the walls hang photographs of legends such as; Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Bob Marley, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, Fredrick Douglass and Malcolm X with a rifle in his hands with a line under that reads, “By any means necessary.” Among those photos are the previous owners as well as the current owners.
Samuel Richardson, 65 says he knew Baker and before the shop opened. “They aretwo really good people,” Richardson said. “I’ve seen them open their shop to so many individuals. I come in here everyday, it is like a second home to me.” “Many people may just see this place as a place to get a haircut, but it has groomed so many men on the outside as well as on the inside. There are many shops around here but thisplace has history.”