REFUGIO – With clippers, scissors and straight razor in hand, Bobby Moya is fulfilling what he says is his life’s calling — to be a barber.
The 1999 Refugio High School graduate shares space with partner Lupe Ortega at their barber shop in the 400 block of North Alamo Street in the Refugio Shopping Center.
While some kids dream of one day becoming a firefighter or police officer, Moya said he knew from an early age that he was destined to cut hair.
“The reason why I began cutting hair — I started doing this at age 13,” Moya said. “Me and my brother liked to get a haircut every week or two, and my mother couldn’t afford it.
“I asked her to buy me some hair clippers, and I started cutting my own hair. It took me two hours the first time. It was something that I enjoyed doing, and I got better and better.”
Moya said he started cutting his brother’s hair and then cut hair for his neighbors and friends from school, and he knew it was something he wanted to continue doing.
“I was cutting hair on the back porch, and it just took off,” he said.
After working in the oil field for a while after finishing high school, Moya said he knew he needed to pursue his professional passion, instead.
“I knew the oil field was not for me,” he said. “I started at South Texas Barber College in Corpus Christi and finished in about a year. Once I got my barber’s license I came here, and I got this shop in 2002.”
The experience of cutting hair since age 13 helped Moya to be certain of his career choice.
“When I went to barber school, I already had a head start,” he said. “I’d been doing this for so long, there was no doubt it’s what I wanted to do”
Moya said he knows a lot of people who start at barber college but don’t finish.
“It takes 1,500 hours, and a lot of people get a few hundred hours in and then stop,” he said. “I was determined to finish. I’m good at it — it’s my calling.”
A chance encounter at the grocery store led to a barbershop partnership.
Moya knew that Ortega also cut hair, and the two of them saw each other in a Refugio H-E-B store and talked about opening a shop together.
“We went half on the bills, and he comes in early while I stay late,” Moya said. “On Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we’re usually pretty busy. A lot of times the chairs and couches (in the waiting area) are filled up.
Ortega has been cutting hair for more than 50 years, Moya said, adding that his business partner will soon be turning 74.
“We work well together,” Moya said. “He once worked for the prison system and was also at Kelly Air Force Base (in San Antonio). We have built a good clientele up over the years.”
One of Moya’s faithful customers, Johnny Menchaca of Refugio, said he has been getting haircuts from Moya for 17 years — ever since Moya started working as a barber in the area.
“I’ve known Bobby for a long time and he does a great job,” Menchaca said. “I wouldn’t want to go anyplace else.”
Manuel Guillen of Woodsboro, another long-time customer, said he’s glad Bobby has set up shop in Refugio.
“I went all over trying to get a good hair cut,” Guillen said. “There’s nobody like Bobby. When he’s finished, I don’t even have to look in the mirror. I know it’s right.”
Moya said what drives him is the desire to do the best job possible.
“I take it seriously,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist and always want to make sure I do a very good job. My customers keep coming back, and they are also the ones who get me new business.
“Word of mouth is the best advertising. People see a good haircut and they want to know where somebody got their haircut. I have a handful of customers from Victoria, Corpus, Beeville and Goliad, but most of them are from Refugio and Woodsboro.”
Moya said although he stays busy much of the time, the work days rarely seem long to him.
“I just enjoy it,” he said. “It can be 10 in the morning, and I stay busy, and all of the sudden it’s 3 o’clock. I try to go as fast as I can while also giving the best quality that I can. That’s the key to a successful business, making your money and getting the customers in.
“I get in the zone and time just goes by.”
Moya has five children: three sons who are 21, 14 and 10 and two daughters ages 13 years and 7 months old.
Asked if any of his children might one day follow in his footsteps, Moya said his 13-year-old daughter is the one who shows the most interest in hair styling.
The hours of the barber shop are flexible, although it is closed on Sunday.
“Lupe usually gets in about 9 a.m., and I come in around 11 or noon,” Moya said. “Lupe is here early, and I stay late. If we are really busy, I might be here until 10 p.m. if it works out that way.”
Moya says the barber shop gladly takes walk-ins, and “everybody is welcome, from 6-month-olds to old men — it doesn’t matter.”
Moya still uses a straight raiser if the job calls for it, and he said a lot of customers appreciate that.
“It’s hard to find a barber these days who uses a straight razor, but that’s the way I learned, and it’s the way I got my haircuts from Celestine Wills right here in Refugio. I want to continue that tradition.”
Jeff Osborne is editor of the Refugio County Press and the News of San Patricio.