Mel’s Barber Shop
On the corner of Galvez and St. Bernard streets, Melvin Sampson is usually snipping, buzz cutting and shaving; yesterday he was mopping.
On Saturday, waves sloshed almost a foot of water into his 700-square-foot old-school barbershop.
“It was bad enough but then all the fools driving by in the biking lane just to video,” he says. “I mean, ‘Go catch the news instead of pushing water into my shop.’”
Once the pumps started doing their job – which, like many, Sampson believes took way too long – the water receded quickly and he was mopping out his shop by 8 p.m. After 15 hours of work, his shop was up and will be ready to open on Tuesday.
“It looked bad at first but I’ve been blessed,” he says. “I painted the shop a few months ago and I still had leftover paint. My door is swollen and I had to buy a bulb for my floodlight so I’m out $7. But it didn’t reach my chairs, so yes, I’m blessed.”
Sampson has been cutting hair for 25 years. He enjoys the work, especially seeing his regular clients, friends and people from the neighborhood.
“It’s a good life. It’s always been easy for me and I’m good at it,” he says with a gentle humility. “I grew up in the neighborhood. I’m now cutting grandkids of people I’ve known for years.”
Mel’s Barber Shop is a full-service barbershop where Sampson prides himself on grooming the entire head: ear hair, nose hair, eyebrows, trimming beards and giving close shaves.
He’s known for curing ingrown hairs and not creating them in the first place.
“I just make sure that it doesn’t happen,” he says. “Sometimes clients go elsewhere but they usually come back because I do it right.”
Sampson bought the business 13 years ago and sees at least 10 to 12 clients per day. Two other barbers who rent space from him see about the same. He bought the shop from neighborhood legend, Staffus Broussard.
“Everyone knew Mr. Broussard and they always tell me stories about him,” he says. “He was well loved. That’s what I dream about, that years from now people will remember me. That would be satisfying. My kids are gone and my house is paid for. I’d be happy to do this for 20 or 30 more years.”
Today, Sampson pushes his chairs into place, organizes his combs and clippers and gets ready for another day.
“You know how some people live from paycheck to paycheck, I live from haircut to haircut,” he says. “I guess I’m not very good at business but I’ve made it all these years from pure talent and I love what I do.”
Mel’s Barber Shop
2104 St. Bernard