A barber in Fort Worth will get big honors from the State of Texas Tuesday for keeping his customers looking good for 75 years.
“I’m blessed. It's an honor. Really and truly. To be able to see what you have accomplished all these years,” said a teary-eared Louis Ayala.
Tuesday, the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation, the agency that regulates barbers, will celebrate a career and a life of precision. Ayala’s daughter Melissa Frazier contacted the agency to let them know of her father’s coifed career.
“I sent a small bio asking if they had any records of barbers and how long they’ve been in the profession,” Frazier said of the conversation with a woman in the licensing office. “She was ecstatic and said the executive director wanted to do something.”
Ayala started cutting hair back in 1945 when he was 15. He celebrated his 90th birthday on September 5th and is still sharp with a pair of scissors and a razor, and still knows how to keep his customers happy.
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“He's a great man. He knows how to cut my hair. We always have really good conversations about different topics - golf, you name it, politics. I look forward to it,” said Robert Campbell, a customer since the mid-90s.
Ayala grew up in North Fort Worth and at the age of nine, started carrying a shoe shine kit built by his dad and started shining shoes. By the age of 12, he was regularly shining shoes at a neighborhood barbershop. At 14 while still in middle school, he was heading downtown to learn how to cut hair.
Early on, Ayala knew he wanted to be a neighborhood barber. Years later, he opened Ayala’s Barber Shop on North Main Street in the same neighborhood where he grew up and where loyal followers went for decades to get a good haircut and good conversation.
“I enjoy the public. I enjoy the customers, the atmosphere, everything. I enjoy people,” Ayala said.
Ayala will tell you his loves to cut hair and loves his customers. That connection has kept him in the shop for more than seven decades with generations of families still making their way to see him.
“There’s nothing he can’t fix,” Campbell said as Ayala shaped his hair, clipped the edges around the ears and combed through the new cut to make sure it was perfect.
Ayala and his wife who also has a long career as a stylist have six children. Yet, none cut hair. At least eight other family members, though, did pick up the scissors to craft careers of their own.
“We’ve been here 23 years now, by the Grace of God, but not like Tio has. He has 75 and still counting,” said niece Sylvia Ayala Mendez who owns Ayala No. 2 on Decatur Avenue. Her father John started it and now Mendez works alongside her son to continue the family business.
Ayala left the shop he started a year ago and now leases it to other barbers. He joined his wife Delia in her salon on Northeast 23rd and now works part-time. Even so, the hours can be long like on Saturday when his first customer shows up at 6:30 in the morning. As for the secret to a great cut, Ayala says a barber has to know the shape of the client's head, and a customer can’t go wrong with a classic regular cut.