After 41 years of trims, shaves and regular customers, Lamar’s Barber Shop in downtown San Marcos closed up show this month after landlord Charles Waldrip ended the building’s lease. HAYS FREE PRESS PHOTO by KIM HILSENBECK
by KIM HILSENBECK
In 41 years, a barber can cut a lot of hair.
That’s exactly what Lamar LaCaze, 68, did at Lamar’s Barber Shop, a fixture in downtown San Marcos for more than four decades. He does good work as far as a cadre of regular customers were concerned. Though lean times and good, he made his rent one haircut at a time, he says.
“I started out with a lot of little kids’ haircuts. Now they are in their ‘50s,” LaCaze said.
In late August, LaCaze said he received a phone call from Charles Waldrip, the local insurance agent who owns the building where LaCaze has barbered for more than four decades. LaCaze and his wife, Lois, drove to San Marcos to hear the bad news face-to-face.
“I don’t break up with anybody on the phone,” LaCaze said. He tried to talk his landlord out of it to no avail. “‘It’s done,’ he told me. But I don’t think it was hostile.”
The little building at 114 N LBJ Drive has housed five barbers in the past 101 years, according to LaCaze’s oral history. In 1972, LaCaze bought the business from Sam “Slim” Stockton, who had bought it from the barber before him. Until now, the business has operated without interruption, handed off from one owner to the next, for more than a century, LaCaze said.
“We shut it down. It bothers us, but we felt we didn’t have a choice,” Lois LaCaze said.
Once they received notice to vacate the premises, LaCaze and his wife asked their three grown children to return to San Marcos and help them move everything out of the shop. They wanted to make sure their equipment didn’t fall into the hands of a new barber.
LaCaze said the landlord tried to lay claim to some of his barbershop furniture, which made LaCaze wonder why he would need it. LaCaze then discovered that one of his former barbers was setting up his own shop in the space they used to share.
“I talked to him a few times about buying the business. But now he doesn’t have to buy anything,” LaCaze said. Said Lois, “Nobody is buying the shop, but we’re kicked out.”
LaCaze’s apparent successor could not be reached for comment.
Waldrip would only say that the building is his and he is within his rights to terminate LaCaze’s lease. He said, “It’s my building, he had a 30-day notice of lease termination. It was my right. He could have terminated [the lease], too.”
Waldrip declined to discuss his plans for the building except to say, “There will be something there. It may be a barber.”
For the better part of the past 10 months, LaCaze has been out of work with a medical condition. He lost part of his foot along the way. But his team of barbers who stayed in the shop continued to keep business flowing, allowing LaCaze to pay the rent on time every month, he said. He had planned to return to work in September.
“We never missed a payment,” said Lois LaCaze, her voice cracking with emotion. “Not only is he losing his livelihood but if he had the option to sell, he’s lost that. People wanted to buy the shop. It stopped that legacy of being on The Square when he lost the lease.”
The couple says they will make this involuntary transition together just as they’ve always done during nearly 50 years of marriage. But closing down the shop has still been bittersweet, at best.
“We’ve had good times out of that shop. We raised three kids” there,” LaCaze said.
LaCaze has thought about looking for a shop to rent somewhere in Kyle, where he lives. But for now he is going to take it easy and focus on recovering from his recent health scare.
“I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m going to do something,” LaCaze said, adding later: “I love to barber.”
KIM HILSENBECK is editor of the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print