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When Hudson Smith got his first haircut, it was his grandpa, veteran barber Lionel C. Smith Jr., who trimmed his curly locks.
“It was a real treat,” Lionel, now 79, recalls about cutting the 3-year-old boy’s hair.
Because Hudson lived on the coast and Lionel lived in Raleigh for 35 years before relocating to Wilson 16 years ago, cutting his eldest grandson’s hair wasn’t a given.
“Seeing him as a barber actually made me not want to do it,” Hudson recalled. “When I got older, he told me more about it, and it sounded like something I wanted to do.
“I like being able to talk with new and interesting people every day and making people feel good about themselves.”
Despite a 58-year age gap, the two now work together every Monday and Wednesday at Webb’s Barber Shop on Raleigh Road Parkway.
“Ever since I started barber school, I have imagined me and him working together,” said the 21-year-old Hudson. “That has been my goal, and luckily we were able to make it happen.”
Hudson graduated in November with 1,528 hours of experience from Cape Fear Community College, but before he can get his full license, he has to complete a yearlong apprenticeship with a licensed barber. Webb’s Barber Shop owner Darryl Webb, who works alongside his own sons, Connor and Grant, said he was thrilled to add another legacy to the storied shop.
“For a long time, it was hard to find barbers because not many people are going into barbering anymore. It is becoming more of a family tradition,” Webb said. “I was very concerned about two years ago with my uncle, Lionel and I all getting up there in age. When my two sons came to work here, it was a relief and now more so with Lionel’s grandson.”
The barber shop started in Parkwood Mall back in 1965, but Webb’s uncle, Cecil Lemmons, bought the business in 1974. Lemmons worked alongside Webb’s dad, Franklin, for a number of years before Webb pulled up a barber chair about 36 years ago. For about eight years, Webb co-owned the shop with Lemmons before buying it eight years ago and moving it to the current location around 2013.
“The industry has not changed a whole lot. Computers are getting better, but haircuts are still done with clippers and scissors,” Webb said. “The techniques change a bit, but it is all still done by hand.”
Lionel Smith said he can tell his grandson was taught a bit differently than he was 60 years ago.
“He is doing a great job. I think he is a better barber than I was at the beginning,” he said. “He is just starting, so he is not as fast as I am, but he does a really good job.”
Hudson said he aspires to learn from his grandfather.
“I’m glad I was able to start my career with my granddad,” he said with a smile. “I don’t think there is any way better to start than with someone you’re comfortable with watching you and helping making the process easier.”
Customers have enjoyed getting to know Lionel’s grandson, who works every day except Tuesday and on Sunday when the shop is closed.
“I was tickled to death to work with him,” said Lionel, who only works Mondays and Wednesdays. “I’ve been cutting hair for 60 years, so I feel I have something to pass on to him.”