One Barber, one shop, 64 years of haircuts: Clay of Clay’s Barbershop retires

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WILMORE, Ky. (WTVQ) – One barber is closing up shop after 64 years of cutting hair in the same store front on Main Street in Wilmore.

The end of the era is due partially to COVID-19, but also a shift of priorities to his wife of 57 years.

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The city of Wilmore recognized his cut above service Monday night with a retirement party and a key to the city.

Stepping into his shop was like a blast to the past with the brown leather chair and candy machines.

“He gave everybody a sense of comfort when you walked in his store,” Hal Snowden, client of more than 30 years, said.

He’s one of those barbers that once you start going to him, you never stop. And then the next thing you know, your kids are going to him too.

“There’s three or four families I’ve cut five generations of their hair,” Clay Tankersley said.

Maycee Cain is 10-years-old, she normally goes to see Clay when her dad gets his cut.

It’s client’s kids like Maycee “Mr. Clay” has loved to watch grow up over the years. And the feeling is mutual.

“I would describe Mr. Clay as kind, sweet, generous and pretty funny,” Maycee said.

She also made him a handwritten card that thanked him for giving so many haircuts over his career and said he probably has cut enough hair for a Woolly Mammoth.

The reception had a great turnout Monday night. People were able to grab a bite to eat and joke about the memories at the shop.

“It didn’t matter what was going on outside in the real world when you stepped into Clay’s it was nice, a good feeling,” one of the attendants said.

“He was a big part of my life every two weeks,” Snowden said. He even joked he didn’t have much hair to cut, but the company was well worth it.

Even before he was given a key to the city, when you sat in his chair he had a way of opening you up.

“You hear a lot of stories, some you wished you hadn’t of heard,” Tankersley joked.

He started hearing those stories right out of barber school at the age of 18 and he’s nearly 83 now.

It was a global pandemic that cleared his schedule for nine weeks, but his wife’s failing health is what kept the closed sign up for good.

“But the nine weeks that I was home with her, I’ll be, she felt a little bit better..and uh..so it’s time, it’s time,” he said.

“He will be missed, going by that barbershop and not seeing him in there, that will be a real big vacancy to the town,” Snowden said.

A man like Tankersley can’t call it quits all at once though, he’s still is going to give cuts at the local senior living center on the side.

“64 years in the same place. I love Wilmore, I’ve loved it,” Tankersley said.

And there’s no question Wilmore has loved him.

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Monica Harkins joined the ABC 36 News team in June 2019 as a Multimedia journalist and Anchor/Producer. She’s born and raised in Austin, Texas and headed “North,” as she calls it, to study broadcast journalism and business at the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou she anchored and reported for KOMU 8 News, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri all four years. During her childhood she played almost every sport, but they always called her “Hollywood” for her love of theatre. In high school, she realized her excitement for theatre and performing was only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s story telling that’s her passion. She’s especially passionate about social media and creative platforms to tell stories. Her most recent experiment is being a FAA certified drone pilot. As a proud Texan she says she’s made of country music, Southern hospitality and Sweet Tea. When she’s not at work you can find her trying new recipes, listening to crime podcasts, reading the latest romance novel or rockin’ out to live music with friends. She says she’s only a tweet or Facebook message away, so say hi and send her the latest on your community. @MonicaHarkinstv or Mharkins@wtvq.com