Upon entering Tommy’s Barbershop off of W. Paces Ferry you’ll find walls radiating Buckhead pride. From famous clients’ autographs to stickers displaying local school support, if these 55-year-old walls could talk, it would really be something. We sat down with “little Tommy” pursuing further insight on his family legacy – and the hair of Buckhead’s who’s who.
“My daddy’s a barber, he started this barbershop!” current owner Tommy pridefully proclaims. Gilmer “Big Tommy” Thomas Sr., opened the shop 55 years ago in September 1959. “I’d do my homework here after school, when I was 16. Every Saturday night I’d come in to mop and wax the floor- only thing I had was a motorcycle with a tank of $.50/gallon gas. This was all country, there were nothin’ but brick roads over here! When daddy opened, he signed a five-year contract for $10,000, and the rest is history. This Barbershop is the last of the original tenants in the shopping center!”
“My daddy went by his nickname, “Tommy,” when I came on the scene, I was little Tommy. I’ve been riding his coattails ever since! I always knew I wanted to be a barber… I have so much fun – the most fun of anybody I know.”
Saturday mornings are a barbershop symphony, featuring perfectly-orchestrated grooming techniques. Men young and old flock to these historic seats watching Tommy and his team of barbers pamper their guests, treating everyone like family. Mesmerized, moms await the moment their son’s smocks come off, not without going into Tommy’s office for donuts (a standard freebie on weekends).
Tommy has partnered with the Foundation of Mitochondrial Medicine in the Adventures with Charlie picture book series. The proceeds from this book go to fund scholarships for children in the ALC program and research for Mitochondrial Disease and Dysfunction.
As for business advice, Tommy offers that which his father ingrained into him. “Daddy always said, ‘put your nose to the grindstone. You get here early before the shop opens, stay late after it closes. Treat everyone that walks through that door like they are truly special – like they’re somebody.’ I’ve been here since 1959 – 55 years! You need something? We’re here.”
Tommy’s window regularly displays local school spirit. Lovett is the team of the moment.
But who is Tommy’s most interesting client? “Mitt Romney – class act man. Came in & said just comb my hair, make it look nice, but I told him he needed a little trim along with it. That was a really great haircut, we had fun! I finally said I’ve gotta ask you a few questions and the man turned serious, he had every answer you could want. The guy was way ahead of his time.”
Both Tommies have experienced giving loyal customers their first and last hair cuts. We go to the hospital to give someone a trim if they’re going to miss a few weeks, at no cost – it’s payback for our loyal customers. Someone came in and said, ‘I just want to thank you for spending so much time with my daddy at the hospital before he passed away, he had more fun talking to you in that hour than seeing anybody else.’ That’s special.”
50th Anniversary celebration of Thomas Barbershop
“One gentleman, a big wig at Lockeed, got his hair cut every Friday since 1955, never missed. When my daddy died, I started cutting his hair. When he was in the hospital, he called up Thursday and said he wouldn’t make it in Friday so I visited him to keep his rhythm. Two days later, his wife told me he wouldn’t be here much longer, and that he wanted a hair cut to go out on. I cut his hair that weekend, and Tuesday morning he passed away.
Daddy always told me, “you want a family? You gotta make a family.”
And I’ve learned what family is.
In the back corner by Tommy’s office sits Sullivan Smith, the mobile shoe shine man.
Gilmer “Big Tommy” Thomas Sr., opened the shop 56 years ago in September 1959. Big Tommy passed away in 1996, and today his son (little Tommy), carries his father’s legacy.