By Katie Fallon
Charlie Day has watched young boys grow to middle-aged men as he has cut their hair in Sandy Springs for the past 46 years and, at 72, he shows no signs of being ready to retire anytime soon.
Day owns Day’s Barber Shop on Hammond Drive just west of Roswell Road—the last of the old-time barber shops remaining in Sandy Springs.
Instead of bowing to the increase of discount, franchised hair-cutting establishments, Day’s traditional barber shop has moved in Sandy Springs, but it has withstood the test of time, complete with a traditional red, white and blue barber pole out front.
Day got his start as a barber after being laid off from Lockheed Martin in 1955. Just two years previous, Day first reported to the aerospace firm on the same morning James Dean was killed in a car accident. His inspiration for changing careers came after a particularly long day of trying to get his hair cut in Alpharetta.
“While I was waiting that day, 33 people came to the door and left,” Day said. “When I got my haircut and left, there were still 31 people in the waiting area. It was easy to figure out the barbers were making more money than I was making.”
At the time, Day had made about $16 a day working for Lockheed. But all that changed on the day he went to apply for unemployment.
After filing the paperwork, Day went and filled out job applications for Coca-Cola, a Chevrolet plant and Sears. It was the last stop at the department store where Day was inspired to try out the vocation he’d realized would make him more money.
“While I was there, I bought a home haircut kit, took it home and tried it out on my Dad,” he said.
When Day eventually got a job with Fulton County as a prison guard, he started attending barber college at the same time. After a particularly exhausting day of riding in the back of a red clay-filled dump truck in the rain with a group of inmates, Day quit. Not long after, he opened his first barber shop in Sandy Springs in late-1961.
Although his Hammond Drive shop is now his third location in Sandy Springs, Day vividly remembers coming to the city because there were too many barbers in Alpharetta. Even the ones who worked in Sandy Springs all seemed to be from the north Fulton city.
“There were only four barber shops in Sandy Springs then with a total of 13 barbers,” Days recalled. “They had a total of 13 barbers and 11 lived in Alpharetta.”
In his 46 years of cutting hair for Sandy Springs residents, Day has made plenty of friends and can tell plenty of stories. That, he said, is his favorite part of his job.
“You don’t cut somebody’s hair for over 40 years without getting to be friends,” he said. “They get to be more than just customers. I don’t know how many times over the years that people come in and just spill their guts about their personal problems.”
One of those friendly customers is Lee Roper. The Sandy Springs resident has been getting his hair and mustache cut by Day since he moved to his current location in 1991. The pair even go fishing together and Roper does Day’s taxes every year.
Roper visits the barber shop about once every three weeks and is quick to tell the reason why.
“I’ve trained [Day],” Roper joked. “He knows exactly how I like it. When I say I want a light trim, he knows what I mean. You have to train a barber.”
But Roper is not the only loyal client at Day’s Barber Shop. Day himself reports that there are some families for whom he has cut four generations of hair. He also said there is reason why people still come to him, a traditional barber, rather than to a chain establishment.
“The main difference between Great Clips or Supercuts is they’re a chain and most of the people who have those franchises aren’t barbers,” Day said. “Somebody’s there all the time and they try to get people to cut hair by number.”
Roper said Day’s prevalence of repeat customers is also due to the shear habit.
“Men generally go to the same barber,” he said.
Day has been that same barber for almost half a century.
The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Day went for a period of 37 years without missing a Saturday unless it fell on a holiday. Ten years ago, his son David joined him, but now owns his own shop in Cherokee County.
Day, who has been married to wife Carol for almost 49 years, said he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“Probably when they turn my toes up,” Day said. “Maybe I’ll go another 46 years and then decide if I want to make a career out of it. What will probably cause me to quit is either my arthritis or my wife’s health. She’s getting to where it’s difficult to get about.”
Together, the Days have three grown children and two granddaughters, all of whom Day will proudly show pictures of to his clients.
Day’s pride and wisdom, however, even goes beyond that which is required for swapping stories telling jokes and showing off pictures of his family. He even offers his own theory for how to deal with the state’s recent water crisis.
“If they put me in charge of it, I’d tell them how to conserve water,” Day said. “I know how to conserve water. You do that by giving everyone all the water they want.”
Day explained that if water was unrestricted, but rather rerouted so residents had to go outside to get water from a spigot instead of having it free flowing within their house, they would think twice about how and when they used the water supply. With a spigot that could not have a hose attached to it, Day said people would not use nearly as much of the previous resource.
“You got to go get it,” he said. “This would last until this crisis is over. That’s the secret. You got to go get it.”
When not debating the merits of his drought solution, Day also cuts hair from his north Fulton home. Those clients are mostly neighbors or others who have heard of his services word-of-mouth.