May 24, 2005
Joe Davis is easy to be around. One minute after meeting the longtime laid-back barber, it felt like I’d known him for years. No wonder generations of customers continue to fill the nine seats at his tiny Mesa shop for old-fashioned shaves and haircuts.
After 65 years in the barber business, it also helps that he’s good at it.
"I’ve been accused of that a few times," said Davis, 84.
The Arizona Board of Barbers confirmed that Davis has cut hair for more years than any other barber in the Valley. Davis trails only a pair of barber brothers in Yuma for the state’s longevity title.
He got his license in 1940 after finishing barber school. To raise money toward the $90 tuition, he sold his 1928 Chrysler sedan for $12. Davis spent time clipping in Phoenix and Tempe before setting up Joe’s Barbershop, on University Drive east of Mesa Drive, in 1971.
Barbering is in the family’s blood. Davis’ late wife, Ernestine, was Mesa’s first female barber. Stephanie Samora and Lindsey Davis work at their grandfather’s shop and will help carry it on when he decides he’s done.
That may take a while.
"I don’t know how to pick cotton or pick oranges, so I gotta keep cutting hair," he said.
Samora, 29, took up the offer of working for her grandfather and has learned a few things since her days at a salon.
"People think guys aren’t as picky as women," she said. "It’s equal."
Well some guys are rightfully picky about where they get their hair cut. With tiny hair clippings dotting his white barber’s smock, the social Davis shakes hands with customer Paul Rowley, who grew up a block away from the shop.
"He’s the best," said Rowley, who has visited Davis for 30 years and has taken his boys to the shop almost as long. "It’s kind of a landmark in Mesa."
Davis quickly quips that Rowley didn’t get a free haircut for that comment.
Aside from a joke or two, there’s no bull at this barbershop. No shelves lined with hair products or other frilly merchandise for sale. No mailing lists or coupons. No styling available and no appointments necessary.
"We shave, give haircuts and that’s it," Davis said.
"And the hot air is free."