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A cut above the rest: Snellville barber shop marks 50th anniversary

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

CONTACT WAYNE

You can contact Wayne's at 770-962-4247 or visit him at 509 Hurricane Shoals Road in Lawrenceville.

SNELLVILLE -- You don't make an appointment at Peanut's barber shop. You mosey in, sit down and chat until it's your turn.

It's this unhurried, ultra-personal business model that's kept Kenneth "Peanut" Dalton flourishing as a master barber for 50 years this month. Twice named "Best Old-Fashioned Barber" by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the slight 70-year-old has weathered a handful of economic doldrums by virtue of his skills, personality and fair prices ($10 these days).

That lifelong nickname doesn't hurt, either.

"This is an old-timey barbershop, really," says Peanut, standing at one of his two barber chairs, a Georgia football coach Mark Richt autograph framed on the wall. "It ain't the salons."

Peanut bucks the trendy, sports-themed establishments that specialize in metrosexual man-pampering. His is a first-come, first-served ode to Barbicide and the buzz of Oster clippers, a business standing at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 78 and Ga. Highway 124 since Snellville claimed just 400 denizens.

And yes, there's a barber's pole out front.

Jimmy Norton, co-president of the Snellville Commerce Club, estimates Peanut has sheared more hair than the U.S. Army at any particular fort.

"He's an institution in Snellville," Norton says. "He has a longstanding following, and an always-pleasant demeanor."

Getting a close-shorn, summer-friendly do from Peanut has long been a rite-of-passage for football youngsters in the area. For older types, Peanut's appeal is his patience, according to Snellville resident Harold Yuspeteh, a devotee of three years.

"It's not a fast haircut, it's a good haircut," Yuspeteh says. "Sometimes he can go for an hour. Some of the people, they kid him, but they like him. I never heard a bad word out of him."

These days, Peanut's business -- formally known as Dalton's Barber & Style Shop -- is sandwiched between a big Italian joint and a nail salon. Flip the pages some four decades, and you'd find a Winn-Dixie, a post office, an auto dealership and tons less traffic. You'd also find Peanut, fresh from Moeller Barber College in downtown Atlanta, working downright unhealthy hours to get his business off the ground.

He gave his first haircut as a licensed barber on Nov. 20, 1959, so long ago he's clueless as to who the inaugural patron was. He's barbered solo the last five years, adhering to 11-hour days outside of Wednesdays and weekends.

Peanut's big sister, Dottie Johnson, 74, says he's known to make the occasional house call.

"When one of his clients goes to a nursing home, he'll go check on them, cut their hair," Johnson says. "He doesn't do it for just anybody."

The disarming nickname, unbeknownst to some loyalists, stems from Peanut's miniscule childhood stature. Shortly after birth, he mysteriously shrunk to 2.5 pounds, he says.

"My momma used to put me in a shoebox at night, wrap me up in a blanket (and) put me under the bed," he says. "We didn't have no baby bed.

"That's where they got the name Peanut at, right there."

At 10:30 on a recent, crisp morning, a 95-year-old newbie customer shuffles in, needing his horseshoe of slicked-back, gray hair tidied up. The patron's caretaker, Teresa Weiss, calls him "Mr. Ed."

"He seems to enjoy it," Weiss says of the Peanut procedure.

Peanut had cut five generations of one local family's mops before they moved away recently. Though he's outlived a fair share of his diehards, his hands are mechanically steady.

"A lot of your barbers, when they get a little bit of age on 'em, they get into that problem with shaking. They get that Parkinson's," he says. "When I get like that, it's time to quit."

On a lighter note, he adds: "My doctor tells me I got a heart like a horse."

Peanut lives in a restored 1872 two-story in Social Circle with his wife, Carol, a secretary with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. In their living rooms sits a vintage barber chair. She drops the "r" word frequently, but he hardly listens.

"My wife begs me to retire," he says. "Cut back on them hours -- slow down!"

Twist Peanut's arm, and he'll wax philosophic on retirement. His thinking is a little paradoxical:

"When I retire, I may get me a part-time job, cutting hair," he muses. "Just something to keep me occupied, to stay in shape."

His dome tidied, Mr. Ed gets his L.L. Bean moccasins on the floor and scoots toward the door.

"I wish ya happy holidays," Mr. Ed tells his barber, his first spoken words. "And especially a happy new year."

By the sound of things, Peanut foresees a bevy of happy new years to come.

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