Half a Century in Waterloo - An Interview with The Waterloo Barber Shop
Peter started his career working on Lower Marsh in the early 70s. The shop moved to Kennington Road in the early 80’s and they are still there today. Peter’s Hair Stylist now has a new owner, Thanos took over in November 2016, but Peter can still be found in the newly refurbished and renamed The Waterloo Barber Shop.
M: What was the shop like when you first opened?
P: When I moved into the shop it was the flashiest in the area. The customers wanted shiny surfaces, with everything bright and clean looking – now they want the rustic look! So Thanos has exposed the bricks, timbered the walls put in old style of barber chairs and traditional barbers tools. We’ve almost gone back to the look of the Victorian days although we have the modern lighting, hair styling techniques, digital gadgets and WIFI!
M: What was the heyday for Waterloo?
P: It was in the 80s, we had 4 hairdressers working non-stop all day like a factory. We were surrounded by a lot of office buildings, we had MI6, Central office of Information, County hall, Shell, Christopher House and several other big companies. Then offices started moving out. It took time for things improve, but the area is now on the up again.
M: What’s it about Waterloo that means you have never wanted to leave?
P: I’ve always been happy here. My entire working life has been in Waterloo and I would never want to work anywhere else. I’m very pleased that Thanos decided to take over the shop, he first started working for me 20 years ago, and he did his original training with me. I’m happy he is making his mark too, refurbishing the shop and reintroducing beard trimming and sculpting and selling male grooming products from waxes, hair tonics to beard oils.
M: What haircuts do you never get asked for anymore?
P: The Tony Curtis. And the Elvis Presley quiff, we even used to singe people’s hair – burning it with a candle, I never enjoyed doing that – it’s a cheap gimmick costing 10p on the original pricelist – a lot of people thought it sealed the ends of the hair, which is nonsense. It just smelt bad.
M: Are there any other businesses that are still around from the beginning?
P: I’m the last of the originals on this parade and possibly Lower Marsh. One thing that hasn’t changed on Lower Marsh is there have always been lots of cafes; however, Rymans used to be a bacon curing factory, where my father-in-law worked and there were all sorts of traders on the market - from umbrella repair men too horse meat sellers (as pet food), it is good to see the market busy again. When I started on Lower Marsh I was the only foreigner. But I was accepted from the beginning because I’ve always been friendly to everyone, and the fact that they still come back to me after all these years does tell you something! In England we can’t go back, and as long as we all learn to live with one another it’s good with me.
M: What is the secret to running a successful barbers for 30+ years?
P: I’ve kept it very reasonable here, that’s how we’ve survived for so long. I always believed in giving good service, and reasonable prices, and people always came back. Quality is in the details, we play close attention to every detail of the hair and scalp to ensure that the cut is pristine without a hair out of place.
M: What do you want to see here in the next 10 years? P: When it comes to business, we’ve always benefitted more from offices. In the 80s at lunchtime you couldn’t even get in here. Now our customers range from MPs to OAPs. We have a good mix from locals living in the area worker in local offices, plus students from local schools; however more business’s still mean more customers!