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Column: Town center depends on where you get your haircut
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
September 26, 2012 12:47 AM | 2385 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
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The friendly neighborhood barbershop has always been the closest thing Buckhead has to a town hall.

This is evidenced by the fact that during the buildup to the July 31 primary election, several enterprising candidates set up shop on Saturdays at Thomas Barber Shop on West Paces Ferry Road. This is brilliant for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, if you want to know what is going on in Buckhead, in Atlanta, in Athens or on Mars, someone at Thomas, known to all as Tommy’s, will know and will be talking about it. Second, there is a readily captive audience. There are only so many chairs in the venerable barbershop and just about everyone in Buckhead heads over Saturday morning. In our house that would be the boy, Thornton, who does not understand why he has to get his haircut, and me.

The last time we took him in his hair was well into his eyes, just a mop of brown with the Bieberesque swish to one side. Finally, getting back to Tommy’s, no one has an opinion on anything, so an eager candidate can hold forth on their position without the fear of being dragged to the mat. On that last point I am kidding. I can’t imagine a tougher crowd to have to sell your ideas. Polite? Absolutely. Opinionated? That, too.

Gilmer Thomas opened Thomas Barber Shop in 1959 and today it is run by his son, Walter Thomas, who is known far and wide simply as “Tommy.”

Just about half of Buckhead grew up getting their ears lowered at Tommy’s, among the football helmets from every college in the SEC, the ACC and just about everywhere anyone can think of and the myriad of Coca-Cola bottles. I did not. As anyone who has deigned to read this column knows, I didn’t get much farther than the Hole, Peachtree Battle Shopping Center. We grew up going to see Wayne King and his gang down at the Peachtree Battle Barber Shop, which dates back to 1958. I was struck stupid a few years ago when after dropping my daughter off for soccer practice at E. Rivers Elementary School, I popped in to get a trim. I had not been since before college. It had not changed a bit. The same television, the same chairs, the same people. Given that it had been a good 25 years since I had darkened the doorway and I was one of about a thousand children who got their haircuts there, I assumed I would go unnoticed.

Wayne was cutting someone’s hair, so I slid into an open barber chair and told them what I wanted. I could see him looking at me in the reflection of the mirror though. After he was done cutting the gentleman’s hair in his chair and before the next person sat down, he asked me if I had two older brothers. I do. He then told his compadres about us coming in like clockwork with our mother.

It was another simple reminder that no matter how much our city grows, it is still a small town at its heart.

Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can be reached at

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