GENERATIONS: Keeping it in the family at Jenkins Barber Shop – Meridian Star

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Updated: October 16, 2021 @ 4:24 am
Your Star, Your World
Trenton Steele/ Special to The Star 
Kevin Lewis Jr., left, with his father Kevin Lewis Sr., owner of Jenkins Barber Shop, a company started by the elder’s Lewis’ stepfather Calvin Jenkins in 1962.

Trenton Steele/ Special to The Star 
Kevin Lewis Jr., left, with his father Kevin Lewis Sr., owner of Jenkins Barber Shop, a company started by the elder’s Lewis’ stepfather Calvin Jenkins in 1962.
On Saturday mornings, Jenkins Barber Shop is abuzz with a little conversation, a lot of sports talk and a bit of gossip as customers have their hair cut or trimmed in the latest styles.
“We always talk about sports and all of that good stuff, and we always talk about the family,” said Kevin Lewis Sr., who now carries on the traditions started by his stepfather, Calvin Jenkins, a local barber for nearly 60 years. “We try to encourage the young men to stay in school and get an education, be all that you can be.”
Jenkins, a barber in Meridian since 1962, first opened Jenkins Barber Shop in a location on Fifth Street. Now retired, he was recently honored for his long-time service to the community by the Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi.
Growing up, Lewis would often hang out with his dad at the barber shop, watching him cut hair.
“I used to love being around my dad,” he recalled. “I always wanted to hang around him in the shop. I shined shoes in the shop.”
“I stepped in and ran the shop, and I have been working here for 40 years now. My dad had a good business pattern, and his barber shop had a good foundation when I took over. The only thing I did was to keep the business pattern going, and we have been successful.” Kevin Lewis Sr., Owner of Jenkins Barber Shop.
Originally, Lewis dreamed of becoming an English teacher after high school. But after much reflection, he enrolled at Mid-South Barber College in Jackson, graduating in the early 1980s then moving home to work in his dad’s shop.
“My dad has always been my hero and the one I looked up to, so I just ended up following his footsteps into the barber business,” Lewis said. “That was my goal, to be just like him.”
By the late 1980s, Jenkins decided to work out of a shop at his home as he embarked on a new calling as a minister. Lewis took over running Jenkins Barber Shop.
“I stepped in and ran the shop, and I have been working here for 40 years now,” he noted. “My dad had a good business pattern, and his barber shop had a good foundation when I took over. The only thing I did was to keep the business pattern going, and we have been successful.”
Today, he and fellow barber, Tony Timms, who has worked at the shop for 27 years, keep the shop humming. His son, Kevin Lewis Jr., a third-generation family barber, works part time in the late afternoons and on Saturdays.
“My whole childhood I spent in downtown Meridian in Jenkins Barber Shop,” said Kevin Lewis Jr., who works full time as a welder for Howard Industries in Laurel.
“I used to be in and out of the barber shop all day long, up and down the sidewalks. I would casually sweep the floors, and I was watching my daddy and my granddaddy cut hair all day,” he said. “Even when I went to school at Kate Griffin, I would get out of school and walk to the barber shop.”
The younger Lewis said he never dreamed after graduating from Meridian High School in 2002 that he would end up in the barber business. In fact, he tried to run away from it. His first job was at Fred’s Dollar Store on Eighth Street. From there, he moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to continue working for Fred’s.
“Barbering wasn’t on my mind at the time, it was just traveling,” the 37-year-old laughed. “I would travel back and forth with them remodeling stores.”
After a few years, he went to work at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa before deciding to move back to Meridian in 2008, where he worked at East Mississippi State Hospital until 2014. In the fall of that year, he enrolled in Meridian Community College’s School of Cosmetology, graduating from the program the following year. He then started working part time as a barber in addition to working at The Crossings at Alliance Health Center.
The past 18 months has been challenging for the barber shop. First, the lockdown and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt its customer base.
“COVID changed a lot of things. When I first started cutting hair, we would do walk-ins,” said the younger Lewis, who ended up taking the welding job as a result. “Walk-ins were great because business was jumping. But when COVID came along, that stopped everything. We now take appointments.”
Secondly, a building collapsed next door to Jenkins Barber Shop’s long-time 23rd Avenue location last April.
“We were only able to get our chairs and a few supplies out of there because they said it was not safe to go in there,” the elder Lewis said.
He had to scramble to find a new location and has set up shop in a building at 1727 Sixth St.
Kevin Lewis Jr. said his dad has too much energy and enthusiasm to retire any time soon, but he hopes to be able to carry on the family legacy when the time comes.
“By me being the third generation in the family to cut hair, the plan is for me to continue to carry on the business, the legacy of Jenkins Barber Shop, and then, hopefully, one day to pass it on to my son,” he said.

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