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Dave Smart, owner of Smart's Barbershop in Athens, Ohio, works on a client's hair on August 29, 2020.

September 24, 2020

2 Fires, 1 Pandemic

Part II: How a barber rebuilt from nothing

By Grant Ritchey | For The Post

Read Part One of the series here.

T he ashes were what he remembered the most.

Piles of burnt timber became the new flooring of Your Father’s Moustache. The bright colorful walls were now black — what was left of it anyway. The red booths where clients used to sit were tarnished. The mirrors shattered into pieces. The scissors, spray and shampoo bottles were gone, along with Smart’s job.

When Smart arrived at the shop, the demolition crew was about to destroy the shop. He ran into the shop to see if there was anything salvageable. He hurried to his desk and scrounged through the drawers, trying to find anything worth saving. He did find one sliver of hope that day — a box with some of his scissors.

It was a faint farewell for Smart. He said his goodbyes until the bulldozers started busting through the walls.

Smart later found out the fire traveled through the attic of the shop. The attic connected to multiple buildings on the east side of Court Street. Your Father’s Moustache was not the only building that was destroyed because of the fire. Flower shops and boutique stores were two of the many casualties. The cause of the fire is still unknown, though Smart has his own theories.

“I believe the fire was arson, but that’s not confirmed,” Smart said.

The fire became a symbol for what was yet to come for Your Father’s Moustache. Investors started talking with Smart about starting a training program where stylists would learn alongside him. Smart knew that was out of the picture now.

Investors started taking their shares out of the business, which made partners of the business antsy. Fritz and Bookman sold the company and moved on, leaving Your Father’s Moustache in the rubble.

Through the fire and selling the company was still fresh in his mind, one thought kept ringing through Dave Smart’s head: “you’re now unemployed.”


Smart along with the 30 other employees of Your Father’s Moustache were left to their own devices. There wasn’t another shop they could go to and start up again. Their equipment, chairs, decorations and clientele were in that now crumbled building.

“It was pretty devastating,” Smart said. “You lose 50% of your business. The personality of the shop really brings people in.”

It was time to start again or leave the business of hairstyling all together.

When the thought of leaving the business entered Smart’s mind, he remembered what helped him to get to this point in his career: the S. Davis brothers and Fritz Bookman.

“Cutting hair is like a relationship. You have to say to yourself, ‘How are we going to make it through this?'”-Dave Smart, owner of Smart's Barbershop

Smart then recalled the lifeblood to a successful barbershop — clients, clients who will come back even after a fire. He would get calls from clients, and each one would call Smart, saying, “I still need a haircut.” All he could think was, “what are you going to do?”

“A haircut is something you can’t order,” Smart said. “It’s a product that is indescribable, a creative and artistic expression.”

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Olivia Juenger | Asst. Art Director

He started making calls, asking if he could cut hair in people’s houses and cars. Finding work was the only goal.

“Cutting hair is like a relationship,” Smart said. “You have to say to yourself, ‘How are we going to make it through this?’”

Smart landed a haircutting job at Attractions Hair and Nail Salon, located further down on and on the other side of Court Street than Your Father’s Moustache. Smart was joined with some Your Father’s Moustache alumni, which helped ease his anxieties of being in another shop.

Then, like an uninvited guest, another fire entered Smart’s shop. As he was entering Attractions one day, he was told by an employee that the shop was on fire.

“I just started grabbing what I could find,” Smart said. He fled with his cash register, appointment book and his stereo. While the firefighters were putting out the fire, Smart started rescheduling hair appointments with his clients.

“I was out on the streets again,” Smart said.

After both fires, Smart lost 50% of his clientele. Each fire was a cut to his paycheck and reputation.

Smart still was not ready to end his barber career. Being a barber was a way of life, and he wasn’t ready to throw the scissors out just yet. He searched for years before landing himself on West Washington Street.

Smart and his wife have been snipping and sweeping in the little blue building for over 18 years of hard work and perseverance.

When a client walks through Smart’s red lined door, they are greeted to a red wooden block sign: “In-spire, verb (1): to encourage somebody to greater effort, enthusiasm, or creativity (2): to awaken a particular feeling in somebody.”

In the waiting room, old vintage radios and desk fans line his upper shelf.

“I got fans,” Smart said. “ I always got people cheering for me.”

Traditions, however, good or bad, do not go away with grace.


On March 18, 2020, the coronavirus impacted barber shops across Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine issued an executive order to close all barber shops, salons and tattoo parlors until further notice.

Athens became a ghost town. The city was swept clean, with only townies and students who were renting apartments or houses staying. The rest of the student population was kicked out of town and headed back to their homes for quarantine. Smart’s clients were now scattered throughout the U.S. A man can only travel so far for a Dave Smart haircut.

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Olivia Juenger | Asst. Art Director

“I have lost 50% of my business due to the virus,” Smart said.

His business is surviving, though the pandemic hasn’t made it easy.

“I’m making ends meet, but that’s about it,” Smart said. “All the money is going toward the bills.”

The funds that would go away for safekeeping is now going toward cleaning supplies and masks to keep his shop as same as possible for clients.

A barbershop is only as good as the people who come in it. Luckily for Smart, he is still having customers come in for a haircut during the pandemic. If some customers can’t go to his barbershop, Smart goes to their home to do the haircut there.

“Dave’s reputation is giving haircuts for families. Everyone knows him,” Bookman said. “Dave is an excellent example of an encourager.”

Like the red wooden block, Smart follows the word “inspire”: to encourage somebody to greater effort. Through the challenges two fires and a pandemic have given Smart, he has survived and gained inspiration to move forward in the barber business.

“I really like what I do and I really like people,” he said. “I have never woken up a day in my life and dreaded coming to work. I’ve never had a boring day.”

AUTHOR: Grant Ritchey
EDITOR: Shelby Campbell
COPY EDITOR: Bre Offenberger
PHOTO: Kelsey Boeing