The customers arrive as early as 7:30 some mornings. They range in age from schoolboys to elderly men and come from all over the Washington area to Jewell's Barber Shop, 220 Upshur St. NW.
They come for the dependable service rendered by the well-practiced hands of Willie F. Jewell, and for his price of $1.25 per cut--down from the $1.50 he charged when the shop opened in 1959.
Jewell, a barber for 60 years, is a laconic, no-nonsense man whose personal style is reflected in the shop's business-like atmosphere.
"No Smoking," insist five separate signs on the shop's walls.
"Notice:" another commands, "I will be working two days, Tuesday and Wednesday. I started barbering in 1923. My birth date is Sept. 21, 1909." It is signed, "Willie F. Jewell."
Asked how he is able to make a profit with such low prices, Jewell exclaimed, "I'm living. And I've been here 24 years."
"I'm doing it to help myself," said Jewell, a balding man attired in white and wearing brown-framed glasses. "I'm not worried about the other shops in the area. Some charge up to $8. But the barbers stand up all day (waiting for customers). They look for us. Our people work; they don't stand around."
"I don't know how many customers we get per day," the proprietor said. "I never think about doing things like counting the number of people."
Jewell's shop is no hangout. There are magazines scattered around, but most customers prefer to watch Jewell and the other two barbers work as they wait their turns, though a few relax and talk.
"The people in here talk about sports, religion, politics, the whole gamut," customer Peter Campbell said. "This makes the time go by."
Although the sign on the door says business begins at 9 a.m., regular customers know Jewell usually opens an hour earlier to admit customers who fill the eight green chairs in the waiting area by the red, white and blue barber pole.
"I've been coming here for three years," said Campbell, 23. For the bearded Campbell, who lives on Alabama Avenue in Southeast, the trip to Jewell's means a 30-minute car ride in rush-hour traffic. "I go a long way for a bargain," he said.
Campbell does not have his hair cut by Jewell, who now takes only older customers. "I stopped cutting young people, because they got so aggravating," the barber said.
Although he no longer cuts youths' hair, yet another sign in the shop announces, "No philie cuts," referring to the popular haircut that leaves little or no hair below the ears, with only a "fading" of hair above the ears.
Willie Mayes, 74, of Rosedale Street NE, is another customer who makes a cross-town trip to Jewell's. "There are barbershops in my neighborhood, but they are not for retired people; they charge four or five dollars for a haircut," Mayes said. "And I wish other places kept their shops as clean as this one."
Born in the farming town of Maxeys, Ga., (29 miles from Athens), the 5-foot-6, 160-pound Jewell said he learned barbering from his father and grew up cutting hair at his side for 10 cents a customer in their house on a farm.
"I was just gifted," said Jewell, who went to sixth grade in school and has been barbering most of his life, although he did work as a railroad dining car waiter for five years after he came to Washington in 1950.
Separated from his second wife, whom he married four years after his first wife died in 1962, Jewell lives in an upstairs apartment of the rowhouse where his shop is located.
On his work days, Jewell will cut hair from opening time until about noon. He then takes an hour lunch. After that, he said, "How long I stick around after lunch depends on the number of customers.
"This is a very convenient area," Jewell said. "I get customers from the District, Maryland and Virginia. Also, there is a store and two Laundromats in walking distance for me."
Jewell, a deacon at Caanan Baptist Church at 16th and Newton streets NW, has two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren, all living in Northeast. He does not take vacations. "There is no one to run the shop," he said. "I have never wanted to close up like some shops do. When you close up, you lose business and some people don't come back."