A cut above
As more men opt to go to unisex salons, business has dried up for many old-style barber shops, forcing barbers to close their doors.
But at the Pirate’s Den Barber Shop, the only thing dry is owner Darrell Grober’s sense of humor.
The volunteer firefighter’s wit and sly grin may be part of what has kept clients coming back to his chair for 32 years.
Some who received their first haircuts from him as toddlers are now bringing their own sons in.
“I’ll probably quit when somebody comes in and says ‘You gave my grandpa (his first) haircut,’” said Grober, who has been voted Best Barber by HCN readers for four consecutive years.
The age range of Grober’s clients runs the gamut, but he said that the average customer is in his 50s.
Thursday morning, two men in their 90s waited patiently while Grober clipped the hair of a 76-year-old youngster.
“I had a kid come in a couple of weeks ago,” said Grober, a grandfather of two soon to be a grandfather of three. “He got in my chair and said, ‘How did you come up with this old-school concept for your barber shop?’ I looked at him and said, ‘Well... I’m old.”
While the shop itself may have the feel of a bygone era, Grober’s longtime service as a volunteer firefighter brings a small town, neighborly touch to an expanding and increasingly sophisticated Granbury.
Firefighter paraphernalia, including a plaque commemorating Grober’s eight years as Granbury’s fire chief, adorn the walls.
Grober’s service as chief ended in January 2015.
The Pirate’s Den Barber Shop is a one-man operation, which means that Grober has at times closed up shop to go fight a fire at someone’s home or business.
He and several other firefighters once narrowly escaped serious injury or death when a ceiling collapsed, causing an air conditioning unit to plummet to the floor, as they battled a fire at a paint and body shop.
Grober said that newly purchased thermal imagers allowed then-Granbury Fire Chief Scott Cook to spot the danger in time to order his team to retreat.
After Hurricane Katrina struck Florida and Louisiana in August 2005, Grober put down his shears and went to help.
When a deadly F-4 tornado struck Hood County’s Rancho Brazos community in May 2015, killing six, he spent three days in the ravaged neighborhood serving as the initial incident commander.
Though Grober has many times had to move quickly to save lives and property, visitors to his barber shop at 1731 Hwy. 377 E probably wouldn’t detect it.
Inside the Pirates Den, life feels slow and easy.
A TV drones while Grober quietly cuts hair, occasionally eliciting a laugh or grin from his clients with a clever quip.
That was the atmosphere in the shop Thursday morning when 94-year-old Bill Bell, after having waited his turn, parked his walker beside Grober’s barber chair, settled in and said, “Take it down as close as you can get it.”
The DeCordova resident has become a regular client of Grober’s since his former barber in Acton closed up shop.
Within minutes after Grober finished Bell’s haircut and 92-year-old Charles Rodenberger became the chair’s next occupant, Misty Bennett walked into the shop with her chagrined 4-year-old son Harlan, hoping for a minor miracle.
Bennett said that shortly after Harlan recently received a haircut from Grober, she told her husband Brandon, “Is Darrell losing his touch, or what? Because this haircut is terrible.”
Bennett said that during a family outing at the zoo, it suddenly dawned on her what had happened: Harlan had managed to get ahold of a pair of scissors and had cut his own hair.
“You should have seen his face,” Bennett said of her son’s reaction when his mischievous deed was discovered.
For Grober, the butchered cut was nothing he hasn’t dealt with before during his decades of barbering.
Grober is thankful for his recent fourth Best Barber win.
“I think it’s nice that people take the time to vote,” he said. “I always try to do my best.”
For now, the 62-year-old Grober has no plans to retire. His shop is open Tuesday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon.
Although his own business is still going strong, Grober said he feels that the days of old-school barber shops are probably nearing an end, largely because many men falsely assume that barbers don’t know how to color hair, give perms or provide anything but an “old man’s” haircut. He said he feels that the barbering and cosmetology industries will eventually merge.
Grober said that he “fell into” both firefighting and barbering.
With firefighting, he said he was encouraged to become a volunteer firefighter after he came home for lunch one day to find his neighbor, who was in his 90s, struggling to put out a house fire with a water hose.
Grober took the hose and extinguished the fire himself, both on the outside of the house and on the inside where the fire was “running across the ceiling.”
When a fire engine from Station 2 arrived on the scene, he said, firefighter Poggie Ames asked him which volunteer fire department he was with.
Grober said that when he told Ames that he wasn’t a firefighter, Ames said, “Well, you did a helluva job; you ought to join.”
So he did.
As for barbering, Grober said he was a college student when he took his two young sons with him to a barber shop. At that time, he was struggling to figure out what his major would be.
Grober said that as the barber cut his hair, the barber asked who cut the hair of Grober’s sons. When Grober replied, “I do,” the man suggested that he attend barber college.
So he did.
The rest became part of Granbury’s history.
“I’m just doing it,” he said, “until I can find a job.”
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