LIVE OAK, Fla. — The world’s problems will have to be solved somewhere else.
After 44 years of haircuts and solving problems, Stewart’s Barber Shop in downtown Live Oak will be closing June 11.
“Oh, we’ve solved all the problems of the world,” owner Vivian Stewart said. “They just don’t ask us how, the ones that could do something about it.
“We cure all the world’s problems in the barber shop.”
As Stewart recently cut his hair, Hal Airth said those problems are alleviated several times every single day.
“At least,” Stewart chimed in.
Those discussions with the shop’s customers and the relationships forged are what Stewart and John Brazell, who has worked at the shop the past 15 years, will miss the most.
“I’ve been here 15 years and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Brazell, who added none of the customers know his last name. Rather he’s just John.
Stewart too, said the shop’s customers are what have made the past 40-plus years such a joy.
It will also be the hardest part once retirement comes in a couple of weeks.
“We will miss each and every person,” she said, adding the decision to close the shop is bittersweet. “We’ve had a good clientele of people. They’re the best ever. I told them they were the best in town and to me, they were. They were good people.
“We’ve had a relationship with pretty much all of them.”
That relationship has been built over a long period of time.
Stewart’s husband Elbie started working at Dees' Barber Shop in 1960 before buying it in 1975. Vivian joined him two years later after graduating from barber school.
Their son, Gordon, joined them in 1997. And Vivian and Gordon continued cutting hair and building a bond with the community after Elbie died two years later.
Gordon passed away a couple of years ago, leaving Stewart and Brazell.
“Overall, it’s been a blessing to be with people, laugh, share stories,” Stewart said, adding the shop has customers from all across the region, including Columbia and Hamilton counties, Branford and Mayo. “We’ve sure had a good time.”
That good time and good conversation has even led to some long-awaited haircuts.
Stewart said one patron once said he had waited to get his haircut for a trip back to North Florida from the midwest.
“He told me he waited all the way from the midwest to come here just so he could hear what was going on,” she said.
“Most just sit here and listen. Every now and then, they’ll chime in.”
That chance, though, is almost gone. At least at Stewart’s Barber Shop.
“It’s bittersweet,” Stewart said of retiring. “I’m going to miss the customers. I love people. I enjoy people.”