GOLIAD – For nearly two months, the barbershop of Robert De La Garza Sr. has been unusually dark.
Governmental restrictions over COVID-19 closed Robert & Sons Barbershop and the other such shops across the state.
That changed when the governor issued an order allowing them to reopen May 8 with additional safety measures.
“If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” De La Garza said sitting as he waits for his next customer to walk through the door.
His wait Wednesday would not be long. Within minutes, Russell Ward would walk through the door.
“I come here pretty regularly,” he said sitting down in the barber chair. “I told him what I wanted the first time I came in here.
“After that, I just come in here and sit down.”
De La Garza knows his customers, and he knows their styles.
“It is not easy to find someone who can do a flattop nowadays,” Ward said.
After some 60 years behind the chair, De La Garza has learned a few tricks of the trade.
“You have to have compassion for people,” he said. “You have to like people.
“In any business, you have to get along with people.
“Every person is special. They are the ones who will make you a living.”
There are a handful of topics De La Garza avoids in the conversations as he cuts someone’s hair.
“I stay away from politics and religion,” he said. “I have to stay neutral. You don’t want to upset people.”
His secret to success is simple. He comes to work.
“Sometimes it is slow,” he admits. “The thing is you have to be here everyday.
“Sometimes they all come in one day.
“The people all depend on you.”
And he knew going into this that it wasn’t a profession that creates many millionaires.
“You aren’t going to make a lot of money,” he said, “but you can pay the bills.”
But it isn’t the money. It is the people that he finds pleasure in seeing.
“The people here are real nice,” De La Garza said. His regulars know his schedule and are loyal to him.
“I thought that by getting older, I would get a lot fewer customers,” he said with his frequently flashed smile.
That wasn’t the case.
More, and many from the surrounding counties, continue to come to his shop.
But don’t look for a new perm or a rainbow fade at his shop.
“I would rather cut hair and do shaves,” he said. “Long hair, short hair – to me it doesn’t matter how long you got it or how short you got it or even how little you got.”
Being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t easy for a man so used to working.
“Being closed for a whole month and three weeks is hard for a small business,” De La Garza said. “My two boys would come by and ask if I needed any help.
“I didn’t want to bother them.”
He counts his blessing despite the recent events.
“I am in good health,” he said. “That is a good thing.”
Retirement isn’t something he is ready to even consider either.
“That is for old people,” he said. “I have 30 more years before I think about retiring. Then I will be 113.
“I will be around for a long time yet.”
For customers like Ward, this is good news.
“I cannot tell you how good that feels,” he said as De La Garza finished his cut. “I feel 20 pounds lighter.”
By now two more people are waiting. No time to waste as De La Garza washes his hands, does a quick sweep of the floor and welcomes in the next man.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Goliad Advance-Guard and can be reached at 361-343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.