Dennis Welch - Tribune
by N. Scott Trimble
For the Tribune
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
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
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
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."
with permission by the East Valley Tribune.