Conroe – Just off the square in Conroe, Leon Apostolo takes a little off the top while talking someone’s ear off at a unique barber shop. For a long time, he’s worked at Shepard’s Barber Shop, a barber shop with bountiful history that’s been open for over a century.
“This is the old part of Conroe right here,” Leon said.
Leon’s been in this building for a long time and he’s carrying on a tradition that’s as unique as having a good hair day during a humid afternoon in July.
“Barber’s been good to me,” Leon said.
For five decades, Leon’s had a chair to call home at Shepard’s Barber Shop, but he didn’t take over the business until 2013.
“I went to barber college when I was 16, and I started working here August 1 of 1978,” Leon said. “This is the only barber shop I’ve ever worked at. When I started working here, haircuts were like four dollars.”
Even before Leon was a budding barber, Shepard’s had a long history. Their history is even longer than some of the hair it saw in the 60’s!
“It’s part of Conroe’s history,” Leon said.
Shepard’s has a very unique distinction.
“They classify it as the oldest continuous barber shop in Texas,” Leon said. “Pretty cool. Pretty cool.”
Built in 1912, this building a been home to bunch of barbers, but only five of them owned the place. Leon bought it from his old boss Bob Sheppard a few years back.
“He was kind of like a second dad to me because I spent all my life in this shop,” Leon said. “Five days a week.”
Henry Harris has a long history here.
“He wouldn’t give me that 75 cent haircut no more,” Henry said. “He wanted to go ahead and charge me regular price, but he said it’s still the 75 cent haircut. I just charge more.”
Henry and his brother Roy Harris both used to come to town from Cut and Shoot to get haircuts here many, many moons ago.
“I’ve seen lots of barbers in my lifetime, and he’s about as good as any I’ve ever seen anywhere,” Roy said.
Both brothers went on to have careers in boxing. Roy excelled, facing off with Floyd Patterson in the World Heavyweight Title back in 1958. He even made the cover of Sports Illustrated, and you can guess where he got his haircut. However, there was a time when Roy didn’t come here for a haircut.
“Kind of funny, when he got married, he decided one day he’d just get his wife to cut his hair,” Henry said. “Well, she didn’t know anything about cutting hair, so about after a couple hours, he called me, and I didn’t know anything about cutting hair either, but we give Roy a haircut. Me and his wife give him a haircut that one time. After that he started coming back here.”
People always seem to come back.
“A guy come in here, he’s 42 years old,” Leon said. “He said, ‘You gave me my first haircut.’ I said, he had a gray beard. I said, ‘No way.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a way.’ He says, ‘I promise you. How long you been here?’ I said, ‘I’ve been here 40 years.’ He said, ‘I’m 42. You gave me my first haircut.’ I said, ‘You know what? You got a point. You just made me feel a lot older.’ He said, ‘You cut my dad’s hair, and now you’re cutting my son’s hair.’”
For Leon, there’s so much more to it than just a simple haircut.
“I think it’s nostalgia, the old fashioned haircuts,” Leon said. “You come in here, you don’t feel rushed. Old fashioned haircuts, old fashioned atmosphere, just the personal attention. People don’t get personal attention anymore. People miss that. People are craving service, and that’s what this country’s lacking now is personal service.”
Jonathan Aldana is one of the young bucks around here who appreciates this art form.
“Whenever you go to a barber shop, it’s always like using the old techniques, old methods to get your haircut, and that always attracted, was attractive to me,” Jonathan said. “It does make it feel like an older man, an older gentleman.”
Fortunately, Leon has many years left to keep customers looking their best. In the back of his mind, however, he knows one day he’s going to have find an heir to his chair.
“I’d like to get somebody that gives a quality haircut, that’s got work ethics, that will show up and willing to root in, get established,” Leon said. “Barber shops are a dying breed, I think. Barbershops are-They certainly are. It’s hard to find a barbershop. I think that’s why I have a good business, because people are looking for this kind of shop that has good service.”
For the more experienced, salt and pepper sort of people who have come to this place for a while, it’s about the memories.
“In this town, this is a place that takes you back in time,” Henry said. “It makes you feel warm to see all the pictures in here of the people that you grew up with.”
For the younger generation, it’s about connecting to the past. There truly is nothing like a good, old fashioned haircut, making Shepherd’s Barber Shop a must see on the Texas Bucket List.
“If you go anywhere else, it’s like just go get your haircut,” Jonathan said. “That’s their main goal, to get your haircut. But if you come here, it’s like they know the things that maybe understanding or what’s happened in the past. It’s an experience for sure.”