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Live in Johnson City: C.S. McCullough's Barber Shop

If you're new here, considering moving, or have lived in Johnson City your whole life, check out this series: Live in Johnson City, a guide to Johnson City.

In downtown Johnson City, there's a barbershop named after a great man. This man was a woodworker with a vision for creation. He could create beautiful works of art from scrapped trees. He would take what he found and create something more. C.S. McCullough was not a famous man, but he was just a great man who told a great story.

There are artifacts from McCullough's life hidden throughout the downtown store. A trunk with wooden toys he made for his grandson is available for the kids who visit the shop. His high school track spikes hang near the counter. Hand-crafted wooden tables honor his legacy of woodworking. And placed between the barber chairs is a hand-drawn picture of C.S. McCullough, created by a dear friend. His grandson Randy continues to share the story of his life with all who walk through the doors.

Randy Almanzor is the grandson of C.S. McCullough. Randy worked for Apple in Philadelphia for three years before returning to Johnson City in 2014. When he first returned, he worked odd jobs, making him quickly realize he wanted to be his own boss. He also quickly realized he needed a barber. Randy found many talented barbers throughout the city, but he didn't like the atmosphere of the shops. He wondered why no one had created a spot people enjoyed visiting while getting a great haircut.

After searching and not finding what he wanted, he decided he would go out and create it. Randy's grandfather had taught him, if he couldn't find what he wanted, to create it himself. His grandfather applied this principle mostly in woodworking, but for Randy, it made him dream bigger.

After two years of dreaming, C.S. McCullough's doors opened in January of 2016. Today it is one of the most popular shops in Johnson City. "We're a space where you're going to have a really cool experience and happen to get a killer haircut," says Randy.

The shop not only features Randy's family legacy but also is a hallmark of the community. The storefront is strategically set up with small batch and handmade items, most of which are sourced within the US. Part of this beautiful display is merchandise that comes from what was once a local store, known as The Fouled Anchor. After partnering with The Fouled Anchor, Randy bought out the business from his friend, Patrick Muncey. Today they are business partners who share a common dream of creativity and community.

Beyond the merchandise, you can find other hallmarks throughout the store. Each month a local brewery is featured in the store with a specialty beer on tap. Customers are invited to leave a personal bottle of bourbon on the shelf labeled with a nametag. They're can stop by anytime for a drink or just to say hi. Members are invited to hang out in a secret nook across the hall that features monthly vinyl records from magnolia and local craft beers.

The environment is inviting and charismatic, and the care each customer receives has created loyal clients. "Whether it’s your first time or 100th time, you get the same service. Consistency matters" explains Randy. A principle he learned while working for Apple.

"The barber industry has taken a big upswing because now men can care about how they look," states Randy. When Randy first opened, downtown Johnson City was taking off, and so was the barber industry. Like any wise businessman would, he laid out his five-year goals. What Randy did not realize is he would hit them in only two years. He decided it was time to dream even bigger, so he expanded the shop by adding massage therapy across the hall.

The shop was thriving, and Randy felt like he had a great staff. He was dreaming of what was to come and starting to make new plans for the store, and then something unimaginable happened. Covid hit. It shut C.S. McCullough's down for three months. The restrictions were harsh for the hair industry and gave little aid. Where there was aid, often the loopholes made it difficult to receive the support. When restaurants and other businesses were struggling, creative solutions, such as curbside pickup, were offered to help recovery. Randy explained that this did not happen for the barbers and cosmetologists. They were overlooked and had to work within their network. C.S. McCullough's staff started packaging and hand-delivering products safely to peoples' front door. The clients who felt more like family bought haircuts ahead of time to support their barbers. Some people gifted money to their barbers to keep them afloat.

When the restrictions finally lifted, McCullough's was allowed three barbers in the store at a time. They were slammed and fully booked for weeks. But then business dipped down again. Since the vaccine, business is back up. It has been a rollercoaster for their business, but things are looking up. With business picking back up, Randy has been able to plan for the future and invest back into the community more.

Randy has made the community a better place to live throughout his life. Today he substitute-teaches at Providence School in his spare time. From time to time, he teaches Sunday School at Grace Fellowship. When he first graduated from college, he worked for the nonprofit Rise Up for seven years. During this time, he became close with Mike and Sherry Marion, owners of Open Doors Coffeehouse and Rise Up for Kids.

Open Doors was opening around the time C.S. McCullough was, causing their friendship to deepen as they supported each other in business. Randy hand-built a wooden counter for Open Doors, and Ms. Sherry gave staff recommendations for C.S. McCullough's from her network within the coffeehouse. Today they continue to look for ways to encourage and support each other's businesses.

From the outside, C.S. McCullough's may seem like just a cool spot to hang out downtown and get a good haircut, but as is true for much of Johnson City, it is so much more. C.S. McCullough's is a space for talented barbers to express and perfect their craft. It is a place for conversation and community. It is a store that celebrates local craftsmanship, inspires dreamers, and honors the legacy of a family. It supports other local businesses and invests in the community. C.S. McCullough's tells a rich story and is one of the businesses that make Johnson City, TN, a great place to live.

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