Wade Schumpert was telling quite a story Saturday at the “soft opening” of The Kings Collective Barber and Apothecary.
There was no clipping of hair going on, but a lot of talking, munching and looking out the windows at the east-facing shop on the second floor of the downtown Minter Building building – home for years to Under One Roof.
Schumpert has a Polaroid-size photo at his barber’s station, its color faded over time. The youngster pictured on the bench set across the arms of the barber chair is him. He’s about 1.
Cute, but that’s not the story. His barber was Wayne Petty, who cut hair in Clovis, N.M.
That’s Nichole Reno-Meiron’s grandfather.
Years later, Schumpert is one of five barbers at her new shop on Pine Street, proof again that it’s a whisker-small world.
The Kings Collective is a throwback in many ways, though you won’t pay a buck or two bits for a basic man’s cut.
Reno-Meiron has filled the shop with memorabilia, homage to the profession that she has joined.
Her grandfather’s father, Angus Petty, also cut hair, opening his shop in 1929 in Clovis.
In the summers, she’d visit and hang out at the barbershop, never imaging that one day she would continue the family tradition and the old-school feel of barbering, where networking went on before it was called that and good conversation was to be had.
Yet, it was a barber whose name she never got that led her into the profession.
Reno-Meiron in 2011 was being treated for what possibly was a brain tumor. She was waiting for an MRI at Baylor Scott & White in Temple when she struck up a conversation that would change her career path.
“I was sitting there feeling bad about myself when this old man walked by and smelled like my grandpa,” she said. Her grandfather died when she was 13, and she still mourned his passing.
“I asked him if he was a barber,” she said. “And he said, ‘I was until two weeks ago. How did you know?’
“I said, ‘You smell like my grandpa.’ I just broke down crying.”
The man sat with her for two hours “and he told me about his barbershop and why he like it so much.”
What he liked most was knowing all the men in town, Reno-Meiron said.
He knew every plumber and every roofer, and believed he could help his customers by connecting them, if need arose, he told her.
“My community was the best part about being a barber,” he said.
She was called for the MRI, and she never saw the man again.
While she was being scanned, she thought, “If I don’t have a brain tumor and die, I think I’ll be a barber.”
It wasn’t a tumor. She was producing too much spinal fluid. When that was addressed, she was good to go.
To barber school.
She moved to Abilene in 2018, and eventually began working at Kingslee Allen’s downtown shop.
Now, Allen’s shop is her shop.
And on display is a vial of spinal fluid, to remind her of how all this started.
Love at first sight
Her shop is not at street level, however, with an iconic pole spinning slowly and colorfully outside.
What sold Reno-Meiron on the location were the upstairs windows. Granted, the immediate view is of the drab Abilene ISD administration building across the street. But there is the sky, and bright light comes in.
The windows, which are new, fold in. They’ll be open on nice days, she said.
The space is about 1,500 square feet. It’s above the entrance and display windows of Under One Roof.
She remembers seeing the space for the first time.
“I walked in and said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my barbershop,'” she said, smiling.
She believes her space reminds customers of old-school barbershops, but it’s also updated.
“It’s … elevated,” she said.
After all, it is on the second floor.
“Even better,” she said, laughing.
To read more about The Kings Collective and Nichole’s story, click here. Thanks to our friends from the Abilene-Reporter News for featuring this story about a business in Downtown Abilene.