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Spence moves barbershop after 35 years

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Ricky Spence struggled in school and knew his career choices were limited.

His best option, he decided, was to join the family barbering trade. He was in his twenties when he opened his shop on Glebe Road 35 years ago. The rules he set himself then haven't changed — customers pay for a haircut; smiles and nuggets of wisdom are given out for free.

“From a young age I just had a raw passion to make a difference,” the 55-year-old said. “I learnt to stick to simple things and got by learning how to be consistent, making time and respecting myself and others. I think those things played a crucial part in my life because what I wanted for myself is what I gave to other people.

“In return they gave me back so much love and showed me they appreciated my talent.”

The popular barber recently moved his business, Ricky's Barber Shop, to Angle Street. He held a party for 300 friends, family and clients at the Glebe Road spot before he left.

“It was amazing and felt very good,” he said.

“At the end of the dinner I asked everyone to take a picture off the wall, what I call the wall of history, and put it into a box that I've kept. For years, whenever I'd read about positive things happening in the community — like if someone did good in school and got a scholarship — I would cut out the picture, laminate it and put it up on the wall no matter if I cut that person's hair or not.

“That's what people loved about my barbershop — I had nothing but Bermuda history. I might do something similar in my new shop.” Many years into his career he made friends with Junior “Scientist” Ming. The barber offered the familiar Hamilton character lunch money practically every day.

“It's amazing because the last time Scientist came into the shop he had a glass of water and said, ‘This is for you Ricky, for giving back'. It was amazing to me. I'm so used to giving to him, but this time he gave to me.

“I think sometimes we don't understand people and give them a hard time, but with love you can see people's hearts. I've learnt Scientist is a very talented guy. He goes up to the dump and gets old bikes and fixes them up. I've seen him take old radios and make them work like new again. The stuff we throw away he takes it and restores it.”

Mr Spence got his first job at 13, working at his older brother Eugene's barbershop on Court Street.

“I worked for him until I was 20,” he said. “I started out sweeping floors because I didn't know what I really wanted to be. I was just helping my brother out and then as time went on I started standing up on the stool — in those days I was short — and that's when I started cutting hair.

“The first time it was nerve-wrecking, but I got better with time.”

Mr Spence would cut his friends' hair at Devon Lane School. He admits that not every attempt was a successful one.

“A few of the guys ended up with patches in their head,” he said. “They were a bit upset, but they kept on coming to me and that allowed me to get better. I never gave up. I always told them the next time would be free.”

He didn't finish high school, but maintained a close relationship with Leon James, the principal, who encouraged him to open up his first shop.

“I eventually found the property on North Shore, but in those days I didn't have any money,” he said. “I had about $700 in my pocket. The guy selling his shop wanted $4,000 for everything in it so Mr James said, ‘I got you'.

“He loaned me the money and we made an agreement for how I would pay him back. That meant a lot to me.

“He was a principal and not even related to me. Still, he showed me so much support and love. He was like a father figure to me. Even up to now we have a very special relationship.”

Mr Spence averages 20 to 30 customers a day. It has allowed him to buy property of his own and travel the world — to South Africa, Brazil, China and Haiti.

“It's a very good business and I hope that more Bermudians will learn to take it on because it's a good skill and with it you're never out of money,” he said.

“If you stick to something and be honest with it and give it your best, that's what makes you stand out from the others. It's about giving your best with your skills and attitude. Right now I'm teaching a class at CedarBridge Academy every Wednesday. This has been my way of giving back.”

Ricky Spence recently moved his popular barbershop to Angle Street after 35 years on North Shore (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Cut above: Ricky Spence recently moved his popular barbershop to Angle Street after 35 years on North Shore (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Ricky Spence recently moved his popular barbershop to Angle Street after 35 years on North Shore (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Ricky Spence recently moved his popular barbershop to Angle Street after 35 years on North Shore (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 22, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 23, 2016 at 9:43 am)

Spence moves barbershop after 35 years

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