barber pole
Ray's ASU Barber Shop

By Dennis Welch - Tribune
July12, 2000

Photo by N. Scott Trimble
For the Tribune
     Don Hickman, a longtime patron of Ray’s ASU Barber Shop, sat in a chair teasing the owner, Charles Boles, about the haircuts he has received over the years.
     "This wasn't spelled ‘Barber,’ it was spelled ‘Butcher’ shop," Hickman said, referring back to the time when he began coming to Ray's.
     It was the type of lighthearted ribbing that normally occurs at Ray's.
     When Ray Boles opened his barbershop in Tempe 43 years ago, the price of a cut was $1. Since then, more than the price of a haircut has changed. Located in Tempe Town Square near Mill Avenue and University Drive, Ray's ASU Barber Shop was a rare constant in an ever-changing downtown Tempe.
     That world finally consumed Ray’s July 7, when Charles Boles closed up shop at the Tempe Square location for the last time. Like many small businesses in the downtown area, Ray's shut its doors and relocated. The new store is at 906 E. Lemon St. and opened Tuesday.
     Before chain stores and corporate coffee bars transformed the landscape of downtown Tempe, Mill Avenue and the surrounding area were dominated by small businesses. Although many of the small shops had fallen victim to the corporatization of Mill, Ray's had remained relatively unchanged.
     Ray Boles ran the family-owned business out of Tempe Town Square from 1957 until 1994, when he retired and handed the reins over to his son, Charles.
     Offering more than haircuts, Ray's was a place for ASU students and area residents to hang out and find conversation. According to barbers and patrons, good conversation attracts customers to the shop as much as the haircuts.
     Todd Collins, another longtime customer of Ray's, drives from Gilbert to get his haircut.
     "Usually it's too busy, but today I got lucky," the Gilbert resident said while waiting for a haircut at the old store. "You have to get here early."
     Mike Winsnor, a Tempe native who has worked at Ray's for 15 months, said the current environment does not bode well for mom-and-pop stores.
     "To survive on Mill, you have to push retail," Winsnor said.
     Part of the reason Ray's left its longtime location is the remodeling of Tempe Town Square.
     This would have forced the shop to relocate temporarily, but when the building reopens, the rent would have more than tripled.
     "It didn't make much sense to stay," Charles Boles said.
     Boles was looking forward to the new shop, but the move was bittersweet.
     "If I allowed myself, I could get emotional," the owner said. "This was the only place my father went to work. I have a lifetime full of memories of this place."
     Now retired, Ray Boles lives in California and came back to Tempe to receive the first haircut at the new place from his son.
     "This is the longest my hair has been in my life," the former owner said as he sat down in the barber chair.
     The chair that Ray Boles sat in was the same one he learned the barber trade on in 1947.
     After so many years in the former location, the senior Boles said he will miss the old place, but added that he is "very impressed with the new shop."
     With family, friends and longtime customers gathered, the atmosphere of the opening was festive and full of nostalgia.
     Old stories were recalled, jokes were made and then Charles Boles made an important announcement: "In October, we're going to Chicago where my father will be inducted into the Barbershop Hall of Fame."

     When asked if the shop will survive in the new location for the next 43 years, Charles Boles said: "I've already got 20 years in . . . I doubt it."
Reprinted with permission by the East Valley Tribune.
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Ray's ASU Barber Shop
905 E. Lemon, Tempe, AZ 85281
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