In 1989, Bob Wandersee opened South Austin Barber Shop on the corner of Stassney Lane and South First Street. His grandson, Matthew Wandersee, was born the same year.
“I’ve gotten my hair cut here my whole life,” Matthew said. “When I was a kid, I’d wait until my grandfather finished with all his customers, then he’d cut my hair.”
Now, 29 years later, Bob is retired, his son Tom owns the store, and Matthew barbers from the third chair on the right—the same one he used to sit in as a child.
“Instead of coming in and waiting for my grandpa to cut my hair, I now cut my grandpa’s hair,” Matthew said.
When South Austin Barber Shop opened, it had only three chairs, and a haircut cost $7. Today, haircuts start at $30. Nine chairs fill the shop, and a new location on Slaughter Lane will open by the end October with an additional 12 chairs, Tom said.
“This is a legacy,” he said. “There’s something really cool about the shop being in our family for the past three generations.”
South Austin Barber Shop specializes in men’s hair styles and offers traditional-style barbering, beard trims, hot-towel shaves and more. Fades are a popular style, Tom said. The shop hires only licensed barbers, he said, and they use a raiser finish on all haircuts.
Unlike an “old school” barber shop, Tom said he keeps a tight schedule. Clients can sit around and talk, but it’s not the 5-hour experience of the past where a client would walk in without an appointment and wait and hope he could get a haircut, he said.
“The camaraderie and the spirit of the barber shop is pretty much the same throughout the years,” Matthew said. “People come in and talk about the weather, sports—a lot of that has remained the same. But hair styles change, and trends happen, and we’re always learning the latest cuts.”
The balance of a traditional barber shop ambiance and modern haircutting techniques defines the business, Tom said.
“I’m proud of that I was able to carry this on and be very successful,” he said. “I’m also proud that my son’s involved in the business and is a very good barber. I love being able to recommend him with all the confidence in the world that he’s going to do a good job.”