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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Gandy Barbershop will retain character in move

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Published:   |   Updated: August 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

When I got the word that the Gandy Barbershop was moving, I was afraid one more sanctuary from the world was disappearing.

But Steve Karekos, who has been cutting hair there forever, or at least since he was an Air Force firefighter, says the barbershop on Gandy just east of the Dale Mabry intersection, in business for over 50 years, will be the same when they reopen Sept. 3 in Britton Plaza.

At first I was suspicious. Nothing stays the same, including barbershops.

Years ago, back in the mists of time, so long ago that men still had some standing in the social order of things and could even exercise a little control, barbershops were a part of their inner sanctums.

Barbershops were easily identifiable by the red and white pole. If there was a name, it was like “Ed’s Barbershop’’ or “Joe’s.’’ There was none of that “Kwiky Cuttie’’ stuff or “The Mane Event’’ where you were never sure what exactly was going on inside except that a $10 haircut was going to cost you about three times as much. My three boys go to places like that, where there isn’t a “Florida Anglers’’ magazine in sight and there are women everywhere.

Back then a man could walk into a barbershop and know that he would be welcomed by his fellow gender without reservation. There was no dress code, no niceties to be observed.

Best of all was the comfort of knowing that every barbershop was the same. They all had that Wildroot Cream Oil smell, combined with hints of that wax barbers put on flattops.

If it was a Saturday you could pretty much count on the place being full, which was also a good thing. There were always stacks of magazines and old newspapers on tables to read.

Of course you had to have some interest in “Field and Stream’’ or “Popular Mechanics,’’ although there was sometimes a TV up in the corner where the ball game was on.

But what I liked, even as a boy, was the conversation in the room. There was apparently a rule that the topics would be confined to sports or politics and nobody pulled any punches.

The chatter at the Gandy Barbershop has always been interesting. About half the customers are from MacDill Air Force Base. On the walls are signed pictures from the admirals and generals who have been tightly clipped. There is another signed picture from May Bob, who is an occasional customer.

Anyhow, Steve promises that he’s taking everything: fellow barbers Tony and Terry, the calendars with Marilyn Monroe, pictures of the generals, the old magazines, all the Florida sports teams posters — Gators, Bulls Bucs, Hurricanes, Noles — all of them , and the new place at Britton will look and even smell the same.

The other piece of good news about all of this is that the corner of Dale Mabry and Gandy where that ratty old motel still stands will all be razed for a strip mall going up in its place. Steve claims he has heard that the likes of Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A are likely tenants, but then this is the stuff you hear in barbershops. The developers, Encore Commons, all seemed to be out of town.

Whatever it is can only upgrade an intersection that has become seedy and rundown in recent years.

By the way, the barbershop will keep its name over in Britton Plaza.

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