"The Best Seats in Town"
OHNA Newsletter (March 2002)
by gayla mills
It may be right around the corner, but the Pine Street Barbershop has regular customers that drive from all parts of Virginia to get a good haircut. Part of the reason they come so far is for the atmosphere. With a 1950s retro feel and antique barbershop chairs from the 19th century, you get more than just a great cut when you walk in. You get history, you get gossip, and you get…Michael.
Michael Gahan came to live on the Hill twenty five years ago, and it didn't take him long to figure out that walking to work was a good plan. So he stopped cutting hair at the University of Richmond and set up shop for a while in what's now the OHHIC building. He then bought and renovated the old Pine Street pharmacy at Albemarle and Pine. Though the pharmacy had served the neighborhood for over a hundred years, the building had come on hard times and needed to be stripped down to the original brick and joists. But Michael kept the old tin ceiling and restored the pharmacy shelves, which now hold brightly colored bottles of shampoo instead of medicine jars. The walls host revolving collections of paintings and photos, mostly from artists who live or used to live on the Hill.
What you first notice when you sit down for a cut, though, is the seats. Six chairs of leather, porcelain, and nickel, solid and strong. One even has a leopard skin pattern. The oldest is from the 1880s, like the houses in Oregon Hill, and the baby of the family comes from the 1950s. "I like the novelty of having antique chairs," says Michael. "It's a 50s retro barbershop and it seems fitting that I'd have old style chairs."
Many of Michael's customers have remained loyal for 20 or 30 years, and come from Williamsburg, D.C., and Newport News for his cuts and talk. And the shop attracts barbers and stylists who each bring their unique style to the place, pulling in new faces all the time. About a third of the customers are from the Hill and get a discount on the price. So the next time you're looking for some good conversation or a cut, you don't have far to go to get one.