Chris the barber makes it back to Marlborough despite those high rents

Written by Gerald Isaaman.

Even barbershops are not recession proof, as 25-year-old Chris Bullock has discovered since he opened his new enterprise, tucked away at the end of Marlborough High Street, opposite the town hall.

But after six weeks as a one-man band he is doing well. “Some men do try and get a few more weeks out of a haircut because of the recession,” he reveals.

“But haircuts are not a luxury.  They are a necessity for most people.  Compared to the cost of women’s hairdressers men’s hair-cutting remains very reasonable.”

Chris is no stranger to Marlborough.  He was a carpenter after leaving school in Devizes but didn’t enjoy it.  And having cutting friends’ hair since he was 16, he served an apprenticeship in Devizes before working in Marlborough for five years at the other end of the town.

“I’m happy to be back,” he says.  “It was an easy decision to come back after spending the last three years in Swindon.  I wanted to start on my own terms and it’s been hard work getting everything together, my friends and family all helping out.

“I’m strictly a one-man band.  Now I want to build up a clientele and a reputation again before thinking of bringing in someone else to help me.”

Finding a shop wasn’t easy.  He began looking in January but had to wait until April before there was a vacant premises at a rate that is “a reasonable rent for Marlborough.”

He adds: “I may be the last shop in the High Street, next door to Costa coffee, but I can’t complain. Some of the rents being asked are absolutely scandalous.  It’s due to so many brand names coming in and making it difficult for the small independents.

“What you have to watch are the rent reviews every three or four years.  Then they bump them up and the shops become unaffordable.  I’m pleased to be here now.  I’m going to stay till I’m an old man.  I’m staying put.”

Hair fashions today, Chris points out, are strictly personal preference, some young men going for the footballers’ shaved head – some women do think its sexy – and others preferring a more mature shaggy look while some haircuts have remained unchanged for a decade, and others you might call timeless.

His customers too find that sitting in the barber’s chair an opportunity to offload their problems. “I’m a part-time counsellor,” declares Chris. “They do ask for solutions to their problems, whether they should go for a divorce, or moaning and groaning about not having a job and being skint.  They blame the modern world for their sufferings.

“Most of the time I smile and nod politely.  My aim is to try to make them feel better and more relaxed during the 15 minutes they are here in my barbershop.”