Beloved West Philadelphia barber retires after nearly 60 years

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — “As much as I love you all, it’s time,” James Rice said.

Rice, 75, grew up near his father’s barber shop, which he founded in 1953. Rice experimented with his first haircut at age 14 and received his license to professional cut at 18.

He took charge of the West Philadelphia store in 1972, during which time he built relationships with customers in the neighborhood over the decades.

“I mean, you know, all these years, only God could have been involved,” he said.

Rice, who lives in Mount Airy, also spent 35 years teaching in Philadelphia.

He decided to retire from haircuts with the beginning of the new year 2023. So friends and family threw him a farewell party today. And of course clients came to get their final cut from Rice.

“I was eight years old, so I’ve been coming here for 29 years,” said Jacquel Randall of West Philadelphia. “I grew up without a father. And he’s always here to mentor me, to educate me on things I need to know.”

Several generations of family members have passed through Rice’s doors.

“I’ve been coming for probably about 43 years,” said Bobby Hopson, who came from Delaware to say goodbye. “I brought my son. His first haircut was here.”

Rice hopes the barber shop in Philadelphia will continue to do more than just offer haircuts.

“In my personal opinion, barbershops are a reflection of our community and our culture,” he said. “This is where young black men had an opportunity to be exposed to other black men. That can help to stabilize or create a situation for growth.”

In the future, Rice hopes to spend more time relaxing with his wife, attending church, and traveling. He can be sure that his career was well invested.

“I did what I could do,” he said. “I did it the way I know how best and I’m happy with this part.”

RELATED: The Philly stylist is offering free haircuts to residents of the Ronald McDonald House

Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All rights reserved. Beloved West Philadelphia barber retires after nearly 60 years

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