By Chris James (NCCU) and Jackson Foster (UNC)
the Durham VOICE
Sam Jenkins, owner, who has been cutting hair in this community for about 18 years, turned a bad situation into something positive.
“I believe that it was a smooth transformation because most of my people came to check in to see how I was going and I got a lot of help from the community as well as local media outlets,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins never lost hope of getting his shop back up and running because of his strong morals and beliefs.
“You are what you are and if people be who they are, then they don’t have to worry about anything,” said Jenkins.
Indeed, it is clear that Jenkins’ sons — as well as the community as a whole — are what kept him going through the struggles of salvaging, renovation and rebuilding.
“I wanted to leave something for my sons,” explained, ‘because so many fathers have a bad rap for not taking care of [their] kids.”
While working multiple jobs at different barber shops to save money for the reopening, he continued to better the community by hiring people for day labor jobs and giving them the chance to work. Jenkins said it took them 4 months to clean out the inside of the store and remove all of the damaged structures.
Jenkins said that this kind of community-building is necessary for the maintenance of the neighborhood, “One hand washes the other, but both of them wash the face.” he said. He says he wanted to make sure that everyone could feel a part of the reopening. They could look to the barbershop and say, “I helped with that.”
With the rebuilding Jenkins had to change a lot in the shop to meet the today’s standards.
“The roof went from roll out shingle to rubber, went from a two unit to three unit bay, changed from gas heat to central heat and air, also changed from a smaller glass front to a larger glass front,” said Jenkins.
That’s where problems started to come in with Jenkins because bringing the building up to code cost a lot more than what his insurance was willing to pay.
Jenkins did not lose hope, “A lot has to do with what is inside you, long as there’s life, there’s hope.”
“If anybody was in a similar situation like I was in, I would tell them what my grandmother told me, ‘check out the ways of an ant,’” said Jenkins. “That has a lot to do with me rebuilding was checking out the ways of an ant, because an ant grabs a crumb of bread that weighs twice its weight and he will drag that crumb of bread from here to a pile of dirt and do that over and over until the job is done.”
Jenkins said faith is the main thing that made him keep pushing towards the rebuilding of his shop.
“You really got to have faith in something besides yourself,” said Jenkins.
Preparation was the main thing that Jenkins said that was important in this whole process. Jenkins compared himself to a squirrel. They store up for the winter during the fall and that’s what Jenkins is doing.
Jenkins’s grandfather told him that nothing becomes new until the springtime. In the fall, man must prepare for hard times so when spring gets here he can enjoy the harvest, and that is what Jenkins said he is doing.
It is easy to see that the reopening of Samuel and Sons Barber Shop is so much more than just the reopening of someplace where people get their hair cut; it is the reopening of a gathering place for the community.
“If Obama comes in and a bum comes in, and the bum came in first, Obama would have to wait.” Jenkins said without hesitation, “A barbershop is all about fairness.”
Jenkins talked about the different customers he has had, ranging from young children to customers in their 80s. He had a bulletin from the funeral of one of his oldest customers, a woman who had been coming in for 17 years before passing away last year.
Jenkins has owned the barber shop since 2002, and has been working in the area for close to 20 years.
Being a military veteran, Jenkins uses “waves” as another analogy to describe this rebuilding process.
“Waves come, waves are going to come but preparation, you must prepare for the wave,” he said. “I was so prepared within two days I had put a sign up and was working at Styles barbershop.”
“Get out of the problem; get into solution” was Jenkins motto in the rebuilding process.
“My solution was to get up and running as soon as possible,” said Jenkins. “Soon as I got up and running, I needed to figure out what I needed to do to get into the process and that process, was to get my insurance company prepared to do their job, and I had to start making preparations to do demolition.”
When the times got tough, Jenkins says he would think of his two sons. “Those two little knuckleheads. They’re why I do what I do,” he said with a grin. There are multiple pictures of them on the walls in the shop, and he freely talks about how anything but the best behavior reports from the teachers in school were unacceptable.
Jenkins sees it as his mission to work with youth especially, “My whole being tells me I have to help the young kids.” And he does. He gives them lollipops as they pass his store, and for the older youth he has voter registration forms and condoms from the Durham Health Department.
He also emphasizes that society needs to let kids be kids, and that does not mean letting them sit on the computer or in front of the TV all day. They need to learn to use their imaginations and dream according to Jenkins. “[Kids] don’t dream of being a doctor, a lawyer, or a firefighter. They just say, ‘I don’t know.'”
To Jenkins it is all about empathy, understanding what people are going through and giving them advice if they want it. “My purpose is to brighten someone’s life each day.” And that goes from big things to little ones.
One woman came in with hair dye from the store wondering if he could help her dye her hair.
He did not hesitate before saying yes, whenever she wanted to come in.
Makey Bushfan who works at Joe’s Diner goes to Samuel and Son’s frequently to just hang out.
“The shop looks really nice,” said Bushfan. He says that having someone like Sam in the community is important.
“Sam is a guy who will look out for his people especially the kids,” said Bushfan.
Other people in the community also think Sam is a one of a kind guy who will lift someone up just by speaking with them.
And though Jenkins does not say it explicitly, he definitely thinks globally and acts locally, talking about how all anyone has to do is “enhance one person’s happiness” each day to improve Durham, the United States, and the world.
The key to it all for Jenkins is to be yourself and live by the truth.
“If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to be afraid of.” Jenkins said with a smile on his face, “My religion is the truth.”
Jenkins said the metamorphosis never stops; he said that the cycle of life keeps going through certain tests.
“This was just one step that I believed I completed the test with an A,” said Jenkins.