By Jamon Glover
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
When customers first enter Samuel and Sons Barber Shop, they are greeted with the sounds of Classic R&B, the smell of after shave cologne and a warm smile. There are blue and white tiles on the floor, TV’s on the walls and Carolina, Duke and North Carolina Central banners above the mirrors. “Mr. Samuel’s” barbershop is known as a place where people come to get haircuts, talk about life and get advice.
When Samuel Jenkins was a kid, he moved with his grandmother from Trenton NJ to Littleton NC. Coming from a big city, Samuel was used to regular haircuts. Once in Littleton he only went to a barbershop on Easter, the first day of school and Christmas.
While looking through an old Almanac, he saw an ad for a comb that had a razor attached to it and ordered it immediately. Once it arrived, he started cutting his own hair and as soon as his cousins found out, he was “messing up” theirs as well.
Samuel soon became known as “the community barber” but didn’t see this as his future. After graduating high school in 1982, Samuel joined the U.S. Navy and began cutting hair on the ship after hours.
In 1985, his family moved to Durham and Jenkins began running in the wrong circles. He landed in prison where he faced adversity that threatened to destroy his future. He credits his grandmother for instilling in him the principles of the Bible, which has given him wisdom.
While incarcerated, Jenkins decided he wanted to be a barber and after his release he went straight to school. There he learned the art of cutting and styling hair.
Upon completion of barber school, Jenkins was recruited to work in various barbershops in Durham. All the while, he kept his focus on what made barber shops successful because he knew he wanted his own someday.
“To be successful you need to have a clean business, you need to have clean equipment, your personal grooming should be good, always have business cards and always have a way for people to contact you,” says Jenkins.
In 2002 he got his chance. The owner of the barbershop he was managing went to Florida and never returned. The building owner was about to evict the barbers from the shop, but Samuel stepped in and negotiated to start his business. With help from the city and encouragement from friends, he decided do more than just rent a space, but own it.
Since then Jenkins has worked in the community trying to improve the look, feel and perception of Angier Ave. He has added fresh paint, fences and shrubbery. He also takes area children on fishing trips during the summer and provides a safe haven for children to get candy on Halloween.
“Give back to the community that gives to you,” says Jenkins.
In the beginning, Jenkins had problems with a few gang members who didn’t want to see changes. They broke all the windows of the barbershop in protest, but he wasn’t afraid or deterred. “I wasn’t mad, because I understood how they were feeling, so I just replaced the glass with Plexiglas.”
He wanted to be part of the solution and not the problem, so he set standards and examples for people to follow. He screened his clients and set patterns of behavior.
Samuel and Sons Barber Shop is a community staple like many shops, but he goes a step further by being certified as an STD counselor by the Durham County Health Department. He provides counseling to young and old alike on the importance of using protection when having sex.
“Today many of the new barbers work by appointment only, and that takes away from the business,” says Jenkins. “A barbershop has to be a barbershop. You have to allow people to walk in, and it needs to have a family atmosphere.”
“Over the years we’ve had to deal with gangs, prostitution and crime, but now the neighborhood is returning to a respectable and safe place to be. It’s been hard, but anything worth having, is worth working for,” says Jenkins.