Paul Capo remembers the first day he opened his own barber- shop. A man he'd known for several years walked in, looked around and announced, "you'll never make it," and walked out.
"I almost cried," Capo recalls of that day, Aug. 3, 1970.
But, thankfully, there was a second customer and a third, a fourth and now, after 40 years in the same location on Harbor View Road on James Island, thousands upon thousands.
"I'm at the point where I've been around so long I'm working on the fourth generation of some families," said Capo, who celebrates four decades under the banner of Paul's Styling, a local landmark.
"I've seen kids grow up and move and come back," he said. "Everybody comes back to James Island."
Even if it's just for a routine haircut.
A native of Charleston, Capo grew up on George Street before joining the Marines when he was only 16 years old.
Afterward, he went to Capital Barber College in Columbia where he learned in nine months a trade that would serve him well the rest of his life.
His first job was with Harley J. Richardson, a barber on Maybank Highway.
"He was good to me," Capo said. "He was like a father to me."
A year later, Capo learned they were going to build Harbor View Center and became one of its first tenants.
If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Capo, he's a throwback to the way we always wanted barbers to be. Friendly, smiling, talkative, trustworthy.
"It's amazing what people will tell you when they're sitting in the chair having their hair done," Capo said with a laugh. "Sometimes I think, Man, I wish they hadn't told me that!"
Like a family
That feeling of neighborly trust is what you get when you walk into Paul's Styling, a 780-square-foot salon with four chairs, magazines in the waiting area and an old- fashioned barber pole outside the door of the shop.
Capo's community-based business has survived so long on this island because he understands the people.
"You've got to love people to do this job," he said. "So this business has really become like a family."
So much so that they're throwing a 40th anniversary party for Paul here in Harbor View Center from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday.
And when asked if he's going to stick around for a while longer, Capo smiled and said, "Well, I just signed a new 10-year lease."