It will take more than an EF-3 tornado to stop the six-decade-old Paul’s Barber Shop on Bowling Green’s U.S. 31-W By-Pass.
The 150-mph winds had barely died down from the Dec. 11 storm and Paul’s co-owner Tyler Rossi had scarcely been able to survey the destruction when his competitors in the hair-cutting business began reaching out.
Rossi said he was getting texts and calls from barbers in Russellville and Franklin the day after the storm, offering him and his brother, Travis, places to continue using their clippers.
But it was a message from the Hairitage Barber Shop just up the road from Paul’s that gave the Rossi brothers a lifeline while they wait to see what becomes of one of the city’s most historic barbershops.
“The guys who own Hairitage used to work for my grandfather at Paul’s,” Tyler Rossi said. “As I was trying to clean up the (Paul’s) barbershop, they texted and offered us chairs.
“I’m grateful I have a place to bring my customers until we can figure out what’s going to happen with Paul’s.”
What happened to Paul’s and other businesses along the hard-hit bypass in the early-morning hours Dec. 11 was nothing short of tragic.
Although he lives on a small Barren County farm, Tyler Rossi was keeping up with the news of tornadoes battering Bowling Green during what he recalls as a sleepless night.
“The next morning I came to Bowling Green and saw the barbershop,” he said. “I knew there wasn’t much I could do there.”
What he saw was a Plaza shopping center in the 1500 block of the bypass with its northern end (where Paul’s is located) all but destroyed, walls and windows gone with the wind.
It was a depressing sight for the Rossi brothers, who grew up around the barbershop that was owned by their grandfather John Demunbrun, who bought it in the 1990s from namesake Paul Stice.
Tyler Rossi said the barbershop has been at the same location since around 1960. The small strip shopping center where it’s located holds special meaning for the brothers because their mother and other family members worked at either the Houchens grocery or the hardware store that was on the site.
“I was 16 when I decided I was going to be a barber,” said Tyler Rossi, 36. “That’s the only place I’d ever barbered. We’d love to go back.”
Whether that happens depends on property owner Houchens Industries and its insurance carrier.
Houchens CEO Dion Houchins said he is waiting to hear if insurance will declare the building a complete loss or provide money to repair the damage.
In the meantime, the Rossis were fortunate that another local barber had strong ties to Paul’s Barber Shop and valued its history.
“I worked with their grandfather for 10 years,” said Keith Lindsey, co-owner of the Hairitage Barber Shop at 651 U.S. 31-W By-Pass. “I owe a lot of my success to him.”
Lindsey offered the Rossis two of Hairitage’s five chairs.
“I definitely wanted to help them find a place,” Lindsey said. “It’s going pretty well, but I think a lot of people still don’t know where they are.”
Travis Rossi, who has been barbering for eight years, said the shocking tornado damage left him temporarily reeling.
“I didn’t know what we were going to do,” said Travis Rossi, 30. “But I knew we’d be all right. The good Lord has always blessed us.”
Landing at Hairitage has been another blessing, and Lindsey said the Rossis are welcome to stay long-term, but the brothers are drawn back to the barbershop that has been part of their family for decades.
“We’ve looked at renting other locations, but we can’t afford the rent,” Travis Rossi said. “We’d like to go back if it works out.”
His brother echoes those thoughts, even as he works to build up his clientele at Hairitage.
“I always thought I’d retire from that place (Paul’s),” said Tyler Rossi, “but I don’t know how that’s going to play out now.”
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.