Alexandria, VA

Disposable capes, face masks and meeting by appointment-only — The Ultimate Barber is back in business. The four-year-old shop at 2712 Richmond Highway is booked three weeks in advance, and shop owner John Hall says that’s to be expected during hard times.

“Hair is always going to grow,” Hall told ALXnow. “During the Great Recession, our business actually went up. Folks needed something nice to make me feel good. Something about that haircut experience makes you feel like a brand new person, a different person. It takes some of the weight off just for a while, anyway.”

Hall, an Alexandria native, has been cutting hair in the city for 35 years. The pandemic forced him to close both his barbershops (the other location is in Arlington) on March 23, and temporarily laid off his 14 employees until the shop was allowed to reopen on May 29. He was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, and has new procedures in place, including a policy to not touch up beards so that faces remain covered.

While the social aspect of the barbershop might be gone for now, Hall said that his services are essential for his clients.

“We’re essential workers, and barbershops help people with their mental health,” Hall said. “One customer of mine always told me, ‘This is my therapy session.’ I never really understood what that meant at the time until the coronavirus. We make people feel better about themselves so when they look in the mirror they like what they see.”

Staff photos by James Cullum

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