Barber hanging up scissors after 56 years

In 1968, fresh out of barber school, Gary Swaringen joined barbers David Singleton and Harry Lee Huneycutt at Singleton’s Barber Shop in downtown Norwood.

Early next month, Swaringen will hand over the scissors, clippers and chair to a new proprietor as he retires after 56 years in the business.

“The people must have liked the job I did,” he said, “because they kept coming back.”

In business over parts of seven decades, Swaringen says the number of haircuts he has given “twists your mind.”

“I’ve had a lot of regular customers, and many of them have passed on,” he continued.

And for many of those customers, Swaringen provided them a final haircut before they were laid to rest.

“I get called to the funeral home every so often,” he said, before joking, “I don’t mind cutting their hair, because they don’t give you any trouble.”

Reminiscing on the old shop where it all started stirred memories of a time gone by.

“The shop was located almost directly across Main Street, and it didn’t have air conditioning,” he recalled. “We had ceiling fans, but it was still hot in the summer and cold in the winter. There were skylights in the ceiling, and we even had showers in the back of the shop.”

The old shop eventually closed, and Swaringen and Huneycutt relocated across the street in June 1970 to a more modern (and air conditioned) facility.

“There’s no way I’d have thought I’d be doing this for 56 years,” Swaringen said. “I finally decided that I’d work until I’m 77. I turn 77 on June 2, and June 4 is going to be my last day.”

Currently, the shop is a one-man operation, but other barbers have occupied Swaringen’s second chair over the years.

“Donnie Allen and Keith Byrd both worked here in the past on a part-time basis,” he recalled.

The shop will not close down, but will have new barbers taking over the operation upon Swaringen’s retirement, with plans to be open Tuesday through Saturday.

“The people here in Norwood have been mighty good to me,” Swaringen said, “and I really appreciate their support over the years … in fact, they’ve still supported me at times when I didn’t deserve it.”

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.