Barnie’s Barber and Hairdresser, which has vecome an institution in the heart of Athlone, is celebrating its 80th anniversary.
The family business has its roots in District Six, when the late Mogamat Edros Barendse bought it for 25 pounds in 1937. In 1956, the business moved to Athlone because of the apartheid government’s Group Areas Act.
It’s current owner, Yusuf Barendse, inherited the barbershop from his father, and now, at the age of 73, he has officially retired, but the business is still running.
“Although I am retired, I have dependable people working for me. We have five women working at the hairdresser side and two of my barbers have been working for me for 21 and 20 years. I started working full-time in the barbershop at the age of 17. We were three brothers in the business. We all got our skills from our father. When we moved to Athlone, we only had the barbershop, but when I reopened it over the years, I started a hairdresser as well. My brother, Sonny, died 10 years ago, and my older brother, Archie, retired a few years ago.
“In the olden days, we used to operate from 8am until 8pm from Monday to Thursday and on a Friday we would close at 9pm.
“Saturdays we worked from 7am to 6.30pm. We only had Sundays off. When the doctor told me that I have to retire because of my health, it was difficult for me to adapt to sleeping late, as I have always been a workaholic. Every morning the alarm clock in my head would go off,” Mr Barendse, also known by locals as Mr Barnie, said.
After all these years, Mr Barendse still has the purchase document, which was a handwritten agreement – and which was signed on November 29, 1937. In it, the seller, Fakir Hera, agreed that the senior Mr Barendse pays deposit of five pounds, and two instalments of 10 pounds each.
The document also details the contents of the barbershop, which were included in the sale – one
barber’s chair, one counter, two mirrors, one glass case, four hair clippers, two scissors and two razors.
The original barbershop was situated at 9 Caledon Street, District Six. Ten years later, it moved to 159 Caledon Street, District Six, and on September 5, 1956, the barbershop relocated to Athlone, at the Petersen building in Old Klipfontein Road.
In 1966, Mr Barendse bought a property known as the old post office, on the corner of Klipfontein Road and Birdwood Street. That building was later demolished and a new building was built, where Barnie’s Barber and Hairdresser is today.
“I came to Athlone when I was a young boy. There is no other place I know but Athlone. I know most of the older folk of Athlone, and in the earlier years, even people from Garden Village would come and have their hair done here.
“The shop allowed me to send my three sons to university. They have no idea of setting a foot in a barber. None of them are interested. I met many people over the years. I worked for 55 years. Here one would get ‘psychologists’, the best sports critics, and we have even served prominent government ministers and a high court judge. I owe the success of Barnie’s to the man on the street, however.
“I would like to thank people for their support over the years. I am also very grateful to my wife, Zubeida, who has been the backbone of Barnie’s. I have wonderful memories of my 55 years here. I am a very happy man.
“Hard work never killed anybody,” Mr Barendse said.