Barbershop caters to male customers, offers them pool, darts

Monday, May 17, 2004

Steve Gipson leans over the green felt and lines up his shot. Six ball, corner pocket. "This place has a good atmosphere," he says, punctuating his sentence with a quick cue stroke. The six careens off the corner of the bumper guarding the pocket and rolls out to mingle with the other balls in the middle of the table. "This place is different."

Pausing to chalk his cue, the 16-year-old tilts his head, trying to hear something over the Elton John playing in the background. He's eavesdropping on the other room, listening for the buzz of electric clippers. When that buzz stops, he knows it's his turn in the chair.

Gipson didn't come here to while away his Friday afternoon. He's waiting for a haircut.

Expanded after 18 months

On March 30, Kim McKee opened the doors of Hair Styling for Men at 601 N. Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau. In doing so, McKee expanded her operation from the tighter confines of her former building at 1207 N. Kingshighway, where she'd set up shop just 18 months before.

All along her idea had been to run a place where men didn't have to wait through a woman's two-hour perm to get a five-minute trim. With the new confines, she now had room to give the guys something fun to do in the event that they did have to wait.

"Usually they don't have to wait long," McKee said. "But I just thought I'd show my customers that I'm willing to do something for them."

What she did was install two waiting rooms on either side of the main salon. The south side has a television and a library of Sporting News, Golf Magazine and Motor Trend. The north wing is the main pool hall, where customers and their companions can shoot pool on the table and throw darts at the electronic dartboard.

McKee said she's caught some customers digging in their pockets for change as they approach the game room. She is quick to tell them not to bother. It's all free.

Although the pool hall aesthetics may point to younger clientele, McKee said a lot of her customers are middle-aged men, like Jerry Sterling.

"This place just seems more relaxed," said Sterling, trying to sit still as Cindy Verble's scissors snip at his light brown tuft of hair. Sterling has been to the old-style barber shops and the women's salons, and they just weren't for him. He likes to walk in and get it done quickly. The laid-back atmosphere and the fact that Verble and McKee cut his hair just the way he likes it are nice touches.

McKee started cutting both men's and women's hair 16 years ago. In 2000, she went to work at a men's barbershop in Columbia, Mo. It was then she realized she wanted to cut men's hair exclusively.

"I can cut the hair of eight guys in the time it takes me to do one perm for a woman," McKee said. Her decision to gear her craft toward males spawned the idea for extra entertainment for those waiting. However, McKee said that because most guys don't have to wait too long, the majority of players in her game room are customers who hang around after their 'do is done.

More ideas

McKee said she's definitely not done expanding her business. Her immediate plans are to hire a massage therapist to occupy the empty room off the pool hall, and to bring in a straight-razor shaver to go with the vacuum clippers for the nostalgic male customers. Just to show she hasn't forgotten the girls and since she owns the entire building, she's even playing with the idea of opening the other side of the structure as a tanning salon.

But for all the fun and games, for some customers it just boils down to a good, clean, quick haircut.

Southeast Missouri State University student T.J. Ebner chose to spend his short wait scanning a newspaper sports section. Sucking on a cherry Dum Dum, the 22-year-old lounges back in the chair as McKee drapes the smock around his neck. He's been coming to McKee since she was at her old place. He said he likes the new amenities, but there's only one reason he comes.

"I trust her," he says. Then, shifting the sucker to the side of his mouth and turning to McKee, "Just don't take it all off."

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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