A second-generation barber, George Oliver had his shop on Frayser Boulevard for 40 years. He moved his barbershop to Depot Square in Arlington in 2002, where Dean Radefeld gets the benefit of Oliver's experience. (Photo courtesy of The Commercial Appeal)

Originally printed in the April 10, 2003 edition of The Commercial Appeal

ARLINGTON, TN - George Oliver believes in the power of the haircut to transform a man's attitude from downtrodden to upbeat. It is a philosophy that has kept Oliver, 59, behind the barber chair for more than 40 years.

"The best thing about being a barber is when a guy comes in I normally can tell what kind of mood he's in," Oliver said. "When he comes in here for awhile his mood almost reverses, he's in a good mood, he gets a haircut and he feels better."

Oliver had a barbershop on Frayser Boulevard for 40 years before moving to Depot Square in Arlington six months ago.

Oliver moved because many of his customers had moved from Memphis to the Arlington area over the years.

He has been able to retain many of his old customers and has gained new ones in his new location at 6245 Chester.

"My customers have been moving out here and finally I moved out here with them" he said. "Then I've got new customers out here, so it's worked out real good for me."

Oliver's Barber Shop has the old familiar barber pole out front and a friendly atmosphere inside, along with rows of seating along the walls, catchy slogans on the wall and Popular Mechanics magazines on the end tables.

A radio softly played King of the Road one afternoon last week as Oliver sat in his barber chair and recounted how he started cutting hair in 1961.

"Haircuts were $1 back then, and for $5 you could get the works," he said.

Oliver said he grew up in South Memphis in the area of McLemore and South third and attended South Side High School.

"My dad was a barber," Oliver said. "He was 51 when he died; he was in a car wreck."

Oliver said he initially became a barber in the hopes of working his way through college.

"I just stayed in the barbering business so long, I got married and stayed in business," Oliver said. "I liked it. In fact, now I like it more than anything."

Oliver said he campaigned for business like a politician when he first opened his shop.

"I beat the street, knocked on doors and shook hands," he said. "Like you are supposed to. Its the American way of life."

Oliver's Barber Shop had a total of four barbers in its salad days. Today, Oliver is the only barber in his shop, but there is a second chair in the corner.

Oliver said he has a simple business plan. "I'll just play it by ear and wait and see," he said. "You know, (Cadillac dealer) Bud Davis didn't know he was going to be as big as he is. He started out with one car to sell."

Customer Sid Glenn said he travels all the way from Tipton County to Arlington because he likes Oliver's way of doing business.

"Seems like he never met a stranger," Glenn said. "When he moved from Frayser Boulevard out there he called me personally and I thought the world of that."

Glenn, who has been coming to Oliver for 15 years, said he is especially fond of talking about his favorite hobby of fishing in Oliver's shop.

Arlington resident Dale Gabrielson, who has only been coming to the shop for a few months, said it is conveniently located.

"He's a nice man," Gabrielson said. "You don't have to get an appointment. You can just walk in and he'll serve you."

Oliver loves the positive changes that come with a fresh haircut.

"Being around good people is the best thing about being a barber," Oliver said.

"You watch little kids grow up to be little men and they have kids of their own."


View the original Commercial Appeal article