Since the turn of the 19th century, hair salons and barbershops have served as special places for African American communities. Not just as places for hair care, but as safe spaces to swap stories, hang out and talk about local gossip, politics, sports and community affairs.
All that and then some has been going on at Mr. Baker’s Style Center for a long time. Haircuts, trims, fades and shaves, the barbershop over on Pacific Coast Highway, located just down the street from Poly High School, is a scene of constant talk and motion. Mr. Baker’s isn’t the very first barbershop in Long Beach but, as one of the oldest, is rich with a legacy reaching back to the early 1950s.
Years before current owner Michael Baker took over operations, renaming the space after himself, the shop was called Cook’s Barbershop and was stationed on Anaheim Street. As far as barbershops were concerned, Cook’s was massive; 20 chairs often frequented by local navy officers looking to keep their short military cuts maintained.
“A barber’s paradise,” Baker said.
The barbers at Cook’s always made sure to keep up with the latest hairstyle trends; Jheri curls and perms in the 80s, flat-tops and fades in the ’90s. These days, it’s all about low fades, long fringes and razor designs.
But, after 32 years in the business, Baker says the key to any successful barbershop is not only the barbers skill but the relationships they build with their customers.
“You gotta be a good listener,” he said. “Listen and leave suggestions.”
Mr. Bakers Style Center is located on 1008 E. Pacific Coast Highway.
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