Bar­ber Pete closes shop

Iconic busi­ness on Wa­ter Street in Car­bon­ear served pa­trons for 46 years


It’s a Tues­day af­ter­noon in Car­bon­ear and the sun is beam­ing down on the side­walk, while the streets are bustling with traf­fic.

A yel­low sign on the win­dow of Samp­son’s Bar­ber­shop reads “OPEN” but there isn’t much ac­tiv­ity in­side.

Open­ing the door and cross­ing the thresh­old presents a dis­tinct scent of shav­ing cream, while the sound of men’s voices min­gle with the musky air.

The wooden pan­eled walls are bare, but left be­hind is the ad­he­sive residue where pic­tures were once mounted. Look­ing around, the room feels cozy and the at­mos­phere is invit­ing.

Through an open­ing in a par­ti­tion wall sits an older man with white hair in an an­tique white and black bar­ber’s chair. Upon closer in­spec­tion, a red and white striped cloth can be seen drap­ing the man’s shoul­ders.

Along the side of the chair, back on to the door, stands an­other man with salt and pep­per hair. Meet Pete Samp­son. Pete nim­bly shaves the back of the man’s neck with a straight ra­zor, know­ing it is one of the last times he will be do­ing so in this lo­ca­tion.

On Satur­day, April 27, Pete locks the door to his shop for a fi­nal time, end­ing an era that be­gan in 1967 as the town’s last tra­di­tional bar­ber­shop, lo­cated on Wa­ter Street, closes its doors.

The shop has been a sta­ple in the town for two gen­er­a­tions, and is rec­og­nized by the fa­mil­iar red, white and blue striped bar­ber’s pole near the

main en­trance.

Mem­o­ries sold

Samp­son’s was known across town for the unique mem­o­ra­bilia that lined the walls of the shop, but there is not much left on this day.

Stacked on the counter, un­der the mir­ror at Pete’s work­sta­tion, are three big binders con­tain­ing the pho­tos that once pre­sented them­selves as a col­lage on the wall be­side the bar­ber’s chair.

When some of my cus­tomers started com­ing here they had black hair. Now it’s white. — Pete Samp­son

He scans the room, point­ing at all the unique ob­jects, in­clud­ing an old­fash­ioned phone, a pop bot­tle col­lec­tion and the binders of pho­tos, say­ing, “sold” when his fin­ger meets each item.

He doesn’t feel the need to keep ev­ery­thing since it’s not the item that is im­por­tant.

“That’s all they are — mem­o­ries,” he says, not­ing he scanned and saved the im­ages on a com­puter disc.

The few items not sold are the tools-of-the-trade, in­clud­ing some straight ra­zors, scis­sors and more.

“I have only bought one ra­zor dur­ing my life, and I have 14 in the drawer,” he smiles, men­tion­ing they have all been gifts.

Al­though many in the hair cut­ting busi­ness no longer use a straight ra­zor, Pete uses one to re­move the hair around clients’ ears and neck. He hasn’t shaved a beard in many years.

So many re­turn cus­tomers

It isn’t un­com­mon to see four dif­fer­ent faces through the door in an hour at Samp­son’s. He whips through a hair­cut very quickly, leav­ing cus­tomers sat­is­fied and re­turn­ing time af­ter time, ac­cord­ing to a group of gen­tle­men in the wait­ing area on Thurs­day morn­ing.

“I have been com­ing here for about 40 years,” War­ren Lynch of Up­per Is­land Cove says.

Most are re­peat cus­tomers, and some have been cus­tomers of Pete’s since Day 1.

Randy Fitzger­ald is one of the ex­cep­tions, hav­ing first vis­ited Pete a year ago, af­ter mov­ing home to Car­bon­ear. He looks for­ward to hav­ing his hair clipped by a bar­ber, but re­al­izes spe­cial­ists like Pete are now very rare.

“It will be sad to see him leave,” Fitzger­ald, seated pa­tiently off to the side, of­fers.

Health hin­drances

Pete made a de­ci­sion to close up his shop af­ter 46 years in busi­ness when a few health is­sues limited his abil­ity to work at the lo­ca­tion. In 1999, Pete suf­fered a heart at­tack, and sev­eral years later he had a stroke that he blames on med­i­ca­tion he was pre­scribed.

In more re­cent years, Pete had surgery on his knee and now walks with a cane.

It is his knee that has caused him the most grief, and one of the pri­mary rea­sons he de­cided to close the shop.

“I’m af­ter fall­ing down a few times,” he tells The Com­pass dur­ing his fi­nal Tues­day on Wa­ter Street.

Keep­ing mem­o­ries

Pete has heard hun­dreds of sto­ries and made too many mem­o­ries to count in his 46 years, but a few im­ages stick out in his mind.

He re­mem­bers a man from Bay de Verde who came to him for a hair­cut — one of his very first clients. They crossed paths again many years later, and the man ap­proach Pete.

“He came over to me, smil­ing and said, ‘do you re­mem­ber me?’” Pete re­calls.

Not only did he re­mem­ber the man, he also re­mem­bered the style of cut he gave him. “It was a brush cut,” Pete quips. Glanc­ing at the win­dow, he ad­mits that giv­ing up his rou­tine will be dif­fi­cult. Ev­ery morn­ing as he en­ters and turns on the lights, he says, “Honey, I’m home” to the busi­ness he built with his own two hands.

Many of his clients have passed on, but he still has a loyal flock that visit his shop reg­u­larly.

“When some of my cus­tomers started com­ing here they had black hair. Now it’s white,” he smirks.

Some of those cus­tomers will con­tinue to have their hair cut by Pete. He plans to carry on his busi­ness at his home in Har­bour Grace, where his mo­bil­ity chal­lenges can be bet­ter man­aged.

“I would miss the con­ver­sa­tion if I re­tire. That’s why I don’t want to re­tire,” he says.

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

Pete Samp­son stands out­side his for­mer bar­ber shop on Wa­ter Street in Car­bon­ear late last month, with the fa­mil­iar red, blue and white pole in the back­ground.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/spe­cial to The Com­pass

The owner of Samp­son’s Bar­ber­shop in Car­bon­ear, Pete Samp­son (stand­ing), is seen clip­ping the hair of Randy Fitzger­ald.

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