Elizabethton barbershop celebrates 50 years

Tri-Cities Original

Barbershops and salons have been allowed to reopen, just in time for one Elizabethton barbershop to celebrate its 50th year in business.

Walk into Whitson’s Barber Shop and you’ll feel like you have stepped back in time.

 “We’re just an old style barbershop and we like it that way,” said Jon Whitson.

Photo: Jon Whitson (left) and Arnold Lane (right) serve customers at Whitson’s Barber Shop.

Jon runs the shop that his uncle Gary opened half a century ago. May 8, 1970 to be exact. He is accompanied by his brother-in-law and fellow barber Arnold Lane.

“Not much has changed in 50 years,” Jon said. “It’s kind of a time capsule.”

Inside the shop, only one show plays on the television: The Andy Griffith Show. Conversations are usually about sports.

Jon is a Tennessee fan. Arnold pulls for Notre Dame.

“We won’t talk about that,” Jon said.

Photo: Gary Whitson, founder of Whitson’s Barber Shop.

When Gary passed away, Jon stepped in to keep the shop running.

“He laid the groundwork,” Jon said. “And we’ve just reaped the rewards of that, to be here this long and stay open.”

For the founding barber’s widow, it is a blessing to see her late husband’s dream live on.

“I’m just thankful people are still coming and they like it and know it’s a good place to come to,” Elizabethton Whitson said.

Unsurprisingly, people have made Whitson’s their go-to barbershop whenever they need a good trim. People like Thomas Norris, who has been coming since he was his son’s age.

“It’s the atmosphere,” Norris said. “You can talk about sports. Watch Andy. A bunch of us grew up together. Small town feel.”

Photo: Thomas Norris (right) and his son (left) at Whitson’s Barber Shop

If Gary Whitson dared to dream that his business would be around for 50 years, he never could have imagined that its 50th anniversary would arrive amid a virus pandemic that has changed life as we know it.

Whitson’s, like many other businesses, just reopened after being forced to close for five weeks.

“It’s been really smooth. People have been really understanding,” Jon said. “This may be the new normal for a while…but it’s gone really good.”

While the pandemic has brought a lot of change, the quaint barbershop located on West Elk Avenue continues on.

“It’s not just about a haircut but a good experience while you’re here,” Jon said.

“If you can look good and feel good then that’s a bonus.”

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Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Josh Smith has been a member of the WJHL team since 1999. His family roots go deep in the region, and he’s traveled through almost every part of it covering news on local TV since 1995. When he’s not on the job, he’s with his wife, two sons, and daughter.   “They’re the best part of me,” he said.   You may run into them biking on the Tweetsie Trail, hiking around Bays Mountain Lake, or browsing the shelves at the local public libraries.

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