Robert Murray hasn’t always been what one might call a people person, not until he became a barber at least. Murray is now the owner and operator of Stan’s Barber Shop on North Main Street, and has been working there for nearly 30 years.
“A lot of people they get out of school, they worry about the haircuts and that stuff,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t do good haircuts for quite a while, but that didn’t bother me as much as trying to start a conversation with a perfect stranger.”
Murray, the son of Stan Murray, who died in May 2012, said he just kind of fell into the business as his father began his retirement, nearly 30 years ago. Before, Murray said he had no plans to be a barber.
“[At the time] I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said.
Murray said that his father got into the barber business through an in-law in the 1950s. He said his father started going to barber school in 1954, after he left the armed services, and took odd jobs in between classes to pay the bills while he worked for his career.
“He’d go to barber school get behind on bills and get to work on the brickyard or whatever else he was doing,” Murray said. “It took him a little longer because of that.”
Murray said that the hardest part about the job wasn’t the cutting, it was starting conversations with people who, at least when he started, were complete and total strangers.
“That took quite a while to get into. But my father told me to just ask average questions… Once you get into it you realize that we’re all the same and it’s just different perceptions that people have towards others. Some of the big guys that come in you might be a little wary of, but they can be just big teddy bears, you know?”
Murray said that his father originally opened the shop across the street from its current location and moved to where it now stands in 1968. The shop has stood there for more than 40 years. Robert Murray said he started working and learning the trade there in 1984 and slowly started running the shop from there.
“Back in ‘89 my parents started going to Florida,” he said. “So, it was somewhere in the late 80s early 90s that my father started working two to three days a week when they were back [in Mansfield].”
Murray said that he works the shop with his sister, Tricia Murray Stone, and former owner of the Hair Cottage down the street, Ken Picciandra, who rents a space in the shop.
Murray said that the most endearing part of the job is getting to know his customers, who over the years, have become close friends.
“That fellow who just left [Murray’s last customer of the night] he and his wife used to bring his three sons in who are now in their mid to late 20s,” he said. “Nowm there’s guys coming in bringing their boys in and some of their daughters we trim their bangs; you know you definitely get a lot of friendships… You know like anything else a lot of these people they’re in so often they become like family. You have conversations that last 10, 15 maybe 20 minutes every four to six weeks, so you can sort of keep up with what’s going on with everyone’s families with every visit.”
Murray went on to say that that last customers' sons would come in right around this time of year back from college and come back to get a haircut.
“That’s when they fill you in on that kind of gossip,” he said.