A fixture in Lincolnton, Tinsley’s Barber and Beauty Salon has been in operation since 1998.
“We have a diverse customer base,” Jeff Tinsley said. “About 30% of our clients are Hispanic and I imagine around 15-20% are Caucasian. We get into some spiritual debates sometimes, but nothing to the point where anyone gets irate.”
Granted, a barber shop and beauty salon are places where people go to get their hair styled, but they’re also part of the fabric of the community. A barber who has been in business for any length of time will often cut the hair of multiple generations.
“We talk about politics, sports and religion,” Tinsley said. “I was taught in barber school that you don’t talk about politics or religion, but that’s the main thing we talk about. We go through our day trying to make everybody look good and when you look good, you feel good. We try to lift everybody’s spirit and make sure that everybody knows that they’ve got a place where they can come and talk about whatever they’ve got going on.”
Jeff Tinsley works alongside his father, Thomas Tinsley. Jeff’s son, Jeff Tinsley, Jr. recently graduated from barber school and has his own chair in the shop.
Formerly, Thomas Tinsley worked at Vermont America and worked part-time as a barber. When Vermont America closed, he started working as a barber full-time. Jeff Tinsley, who graduated from East Lincoln High School, worked as a highly paid programmer at a local manufacturing company before he realized that wasn’t where he needed to be – that he needed to be more connected to the community.
“I felt like God needed me to be here more than he needed me behind a machine somewhere,” he said. “I thought it’d be a really good idea for us to open up a barbershop together. We’re blessed to have three generations working side by side. A lot of times I wish my grandfather could see what we’re doing.”
Jeff Tinsley, Jr., also a graduate of East Lincoln High School, said that he grew up watching his grandparents, father and other family members work as barbers.
“I did everything that I could to not cut hair,” he said. “I didn’t want to cut in their shadow. I punched a clock wherever I could to avoid coming in here. After about eight years of doing that, I realized it was pointless and wasn’t getting anywhere. So, I decided to give it a shot. It’s going really good so far. As soon as I did my first cut, I knew I had made the right decision.”
When the Tinsley family purchased the business, they split the space, and Thomas’ wife, Rosetta operated a beauty salon on one side with the barber shop on the other.
“I’m more or less retired now,” she said. “I have a few little old ladies who won’t go to anyone else, so I cut their hair. It’s just enough to get me out of the house.”
Because of the environment that the Tinsleys have established at the shop, Rosetta Tinsley said that women feel comfortable coming in and waiting for their sons or husbands to get their hair cut. Some feel comfortable enough to leave their sons to get their hair cut and go off and do errands.
At one time, the barbershop was called “Player’s Barbershop.”
“We were trying to go for a sports theme, but I think people took it the wrong way,” Jeff Tinsley said. “We started getting a lot of people here doing things they shouldn’t be which made women feel uncomfortable.”
There used to be a separate (back) entrance to the barber shop, but they remodeled so that there was just one entryway.
“That seems to change a man’s mindset when he’s got to walk through the front door rather than the back door,” Tinsley said. “Then we changed the name to Tinsley’s Barbershop and a lot of the people who were causing the trouble stopped coming and we started getting more of the church crowd. We even have some Muslims come in here. It gets interesting sometimes, but everyone is really respectful. We solve a lot of problems here. Nobody’s going to get anything done if they’re fighting. I like to say that we fade things – like a fade haircut – blending the community.”
The COVID-19 pandemic did its damage on the barbershop when they had shut down, but they’ve reopened and require that their customers wear masks and if the shop gets too crowded, customers wait in their cars.
“You can’t own a barbershop and just cut hair,” Tinsley said. “You’ve got so many different people coming through here. If you’re not embracing their personality a little bit, I don’t think you’re doing your community any justice.”