“Well hello, welcome to Graham’s,” is what you’ll hear when you enter Graham’s Barber Shop. Owner, William Graham has been a staple in Wilmington for 26 years. Originally from Pennsylvania, he and wife Katherine have made North Carolina their homes for the past 50 years.
Graham’s start was very humble. While working as a short order cook at the University of Pennsylvania, a co-worker encouraged him to quit his job and attend barber school. Graham is glad he took that advice and says, “That was the best advice I had ever received.”
Graham has been a pillar in the Wilmington community as an entrepreneur, a family man, and a beacon of hope and inspiration to many of the patrons that have passed through his barber shop doors.
It all started years ago on a drive down Castle Street. He saw the building that would change his life, and eventually alter the lives of others.
Graham could be considered a pioneer; he is a man filled with vision. With a hearty laugh, he recalls his first day open, “There was only three businesses around me that were open at that time, but this building was perfect, it wasn’t that pretty, but it sure did fit my pocketbook.”
Through the years Graham has used the barber shop as a way to teach and instill values in his clients, especially those who really seemed to need them. He has seen a lot of change over the decades. “I have seen it all, from afros and fades, to braids and bald heads, and now right back to the afros,” he fondly reminisces. “Funny thing about life, it always comes full circle.”
He feels a certain patriarchal duty to guide members of his community.
With a stern voice he notes, “You know, if no one teaches a young male how to be a man, how will he ever become one? I have four boys that all grew into men, you know why that is? It’s because I raised them to be productive citizens and instilled in them that anything you want, you go work for it. My boys all have worked in the shop, two of my sons followed my career path and became licensed barbers, all I did was give them lots of love and plenty of direction, even if that meant tough love.”
Graham has an area which he refers to as his “wall of fame”, consisting of photos of the shop’s early years and its journey to the present. The wall is filled with actors, singers, rappers, philanthropist, city leaders, and of course many of his steady customers. He shares with excitement how he gives back to the community. He has donated free haircuts and allowed his shop to be used for major films and use by up-and-coming filmmakers. Graham also hires teenagers from the community, hoping to instill a good work ethic. He feels it is important that youngsters develop an appreciation for hard work and “earn the money they want to spend.”
Being a positive role-model in the community comes with a certain amount of seriousness, but there’s still room for laughs and good humor, and the shop is filled with smiles most days. Graham’s Barber Shop is truly more than a barber shop, it’s more like a clubhouse where people of all ages can come talk, get wisdom, and a new look. The shop has been an instrumental part of the community where friends are made and futures are molded – and always imbued with a dose of healthy laughter.