After more than five decades as a barber and more than 42 years at City Barber Shop in Downtown Bryan, Alton “Nap” Cole is hanging up the scissors.
“This is not like a job,” Cole said, in between haircuts. “This is like you go to a place and all your friends come to see you, and they pay you to come see you.”
The only time barbering has felt like a job, he said, was the week after the shop opened again after being shut down due to the coronavirus. He completed 127 haircuts the first day and 630 over the course of seven days.
“My record was 94 for a day, and I broke my record twice in three days,” he said.
If not for his wife’s health and his back, Cole said, he would continue.
“I’ve been married to it for 42 and a half years,” he said, noting he took off a month for knee surgeries, 11 weeks for remodeling of the shop and time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the years, Cole said, he has seen customers from Dallas, Rockwell, Navasota, Bellville, Midland and Mentone. He has traveled to nursing homes, hospitals and funeral homes to cut hair and one time cut a corpse’s hair and the funeral director’s hair the same night.
He cannot count how many customers he has seen in his almost 54 years as a barber — 42 1/2 of which have been spent at the Bryan shop — but he has a notebook of phone numbers. If he ever had a problem, he said, he knows his customers would be quick to help.
“You get to meet a lot of good people,” he said. “This is one job you can meet the top of the world or you can meet the low of the world, but you’ve got to treat them all the same.”
Cole, a native of Normangee, said he started barber school on his 18th birthday in 1965 as a way to join the Navy instead of the Army. From 1966-1970 as a sailor, he cut hair all around the world, he said, noting Australia and Lisbon, Portugal, as two memorable locations.
City Barber Shop has been operating in its current location since 1950, and Cole bought the shop from his uncle in 1978. One of his best memories is spending 13 years cutting hair with his uncle, and his customers sit in the same chair where his uncle used to cut hair.
Billie Farris, Cole’s neighbor and a longtime customer, said he gets his hair cut once a month. “He’s a good dad, a good husband, a good neighbor. I’m proud for him,” he said of Cole.
Mike DeAses said he always gets good stories when he sits down in the barber chair every seven to 10 days.
“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s like home. You meet a lot of people here,” he said.
Gilbert Acosta, who will be taking over the shop, plans to begin a mobile service on Sundays and Mondays for those who cannot make it to the Downtown Bryan shop.
Acosta called it a “God thing” to get a call from Cole to take over City Barber Shop.
“I’m very excited, because I never thought I would be the owner here in the shop,” he said.
Born in Bryan, Acosta spent more than 30 years in Houston before moving back to Bryan in 2008. He feels at ease and comfortable taking over because he knows a lot of Cole’s existing customers and expects some of his other customers to start visiting him at 107 S. Main St.
In retirement, Cole said, he has a long list of home improvement projects and will be driving his wife around.
Cole’s last day will be Saturday, with Acosta taking over Tuesday. The final haircut Cole will give is to his son, and Cole plans to be Acosta’s first customer.
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