Beloved West Philadelphia barber retires after nearly 60 years

ByMatteo Iadonisi Localish logo
Friday, January 20, 2023
Beloved West Philadelphia barber retires after nearly 60 years
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James Rice, 75, helped to shape minds for more than half a century at his barber shop.

PHILADELPHIA -- "As much as I love all y'all, it's time," said James Rice.

Rice, 75, grew up close to his father's barber shop, which was founded in 1953. At age 14, Rice experimented with his first haircut and then received his license to cut professionally at age 18.

He took reins of the West Philadelphia shop in 1972, all the while developing relationships with neighborhood customers for decades upon decades.

"I mean, you know, all these years, only God could have been involved in this," he said.

Rice, who lives in Mount Airy, also spent 35 years as a school teacher in Philadelphia.

He decided that he would retire from cutting hair upon the start of the 2023 New Year. So today, friends and family threw him a farewell celebration. And of course, customers came to receive their final cut from Rice.

"I was eight years old, so I've been coming here for 29 years," said Jacquel Randall from West Philadelphia. "I grew up without a father. And he's always here to be a mentor to me, school me on things that I need to know."

Multiple generations of family members have come through Rice's doors.

"I've been coming probably about 43 years," said Bobby Hopson, who came from Delaware to say farewell. "I brought my son. His first haircut was here."

Rice hopes that the barber trade will continue to exist in Philadelphia for more than just providing haircuts.

"In my personal opinion, barbershops are a reflection of our community and our culture," he said. "This is the place where young black men had the opportunity to be exposed to other black men. That can help stabilize or create a situation for growth."

In the future, Rice hopes to spend more time relaxing with his wife, participating in church, and traveling. All the while, he can be sure that his was a career well-spent.

"I've done what I could do," he said. "I did it the best way I knew how to do it and I'm happy with that part."