Barber Hugh Holcomb hangs up his scissors

Published 9:51 am Thursday, May 24, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


He listens more than he talks — a trait that longtime customers have undoubtedly become familiar with over the years. He has also provided a service that’s universal to just about every town in America, one he has provided for Mid County residents for more than half a century.

Hugh Holcomb is the owner and operator of Modern Barber Shop in Nederland. He is retiring at the end of May after 63 years in the barber business.

“I started in March 15, 1955 when I got my barber license in the state of Arkansas,” Holcomb said.

At his shop on Boston Avenue, Holcomb has been serving the Nederland and Mid County community since October 2005. But he originally began nearly five decades before that in Port Neches.


Twisted my arm

Holcomb became a barber because of his brother.

“Well, my brother talked me into it. He started the barber college three months before me,” Holcomb said. “He twisted my arm.”

Holcomb started his training around the same time he was married — June 1954.

His brother was the first to come to Southeast Texas because of the pay: Barbers charged roughly $1.25 for a haircut in Texas compared to charging $1 in Arkansas. The money was just better.

“Back then, you had to serve 19 months in an apprenticeship under a master barber,” Holcomb said.

He started work at Henson’s Barbershop in Port Neches.

“I spent a little over seven years there, then opened my own shop at Eighth and Magnolia in Port Neches in the last week of June of 1962,” Holcomb said.

When asked why he decided to branch out, he replied, “To try to better myself.”


Rita’s wrath

Holcomb operated his shop in Port Neches until 2005 when Hurricane Rita destroyed it. He took over his brother’s shop on Boston Avenue in Nederland afterward.

“It’s all right being (my own) boss,” Holcomb said. “I had a helper then. We had two chairs and I went ahead and ordered another chair. It was me and another full-timer and one part-timer.”

Holcomb said his favorite part of the job would have to be the people.

“It’s the people. I get to meet and talk to people,” Holcomb said. “And I listen. I listen more than I talk.”

And people have been returning to his shop again and again.

“I don’t know why people (return). I try to do a good job…” Holcomb said. “You get to be my age, change isn’t one of your favorite things.”

In fact, some of Holcomb’s regulars have been going to him for decades, like Ajay Lupo.

“I started cutting his hair in Port Neches in 1962,” Holcomb said. “You may not believe this, but I still have a few (people) whose hair I’ve cut for 63 years.”

Hugh Holcomb stands outside his business, Modern Barber Shop, on Boston Avenue in Nederland. Holcomb has been a professional barber since 1955 and will be retiring at the end of May. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)


Great customers

Holcomb was quick to praise his customers, whom he has dubbed the best customers in the world.

“You have real good people in Mid County,” Holcomb said. “It’s certainly changed in the last 63 years. People are different; but you still have good people living in Mid County.”

For his retirement, Holcomb plans on catching up on some of the work around his house. However, he is not planning on having anyone succeed him at the barbershop.

Holcomb has deferred from recommending any other barbers when his customers have asked him who to go to after he retires.

“It’s a trial-and-error thing,” he said. “That’s why I don’t recommend anyone.”

Holcomb’s niece will be taking up the shop after he retires.

She is a former teacher and active artist whom Holcomb thinks will set the shop up as something appropriately artistic.

“I’ve been a customer of his for years,” Paul Lemoine, chief of Port Neches Police, said. “When he was in Port Neches, my son got his first haircut from him.”

Lemoine recalled going to Holcomb’s barbershop as a kid, where there was always a piece of gum waiting for him.

“And he knows everybody’s name,” Lemoine said. “Even after that long in the (business), he’s able to call everyone by their first name and ask about their families, moms or dads…

“He’s a pillar of the community.”

“He’s a wonderful person. I have known him for years,” Gladys Godley said.

Holcomb has given haircuts to many members of Godley’s family over the years. She credits Holcomb for his fastidiousness and organization.

“Everything is on schedule for him,” Godley said. “He does the same thing on the same days of the week. He’s real organized. He is one of the neatest people you’ve ever seen.”

Godley has organized a retirement party for Holcomb at the beginning of next month to help the community celebrate such a longstanding member.

The party will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on June 3 at Central Baptist Church on 903 Ave. B in Port Neches.

“I just think he’s done it so long he deserves to have a little party for people to see him,” Godley said.