BAR HARBOR — It’s hard to retire when you’re the town’s only barber.
Raymond Gray, known as “Razor Ray,” was ready to retire this summer after cutting hair in Bar Harbor for 56 years. He found a barber to take over his shop, and left.
That new barber, Jeremy Bither, arrived in July. He liked the work and the customers, but said he couldn’t find an affordable place to live here. He was commuting home to Houlton on the weekends.
Then in August, he gave up.
“He left in the middle of the night with a note,” Gray told the Islander last week. Gray put a handwritten sign in the window, much like the ones that over the years have announced his business hours, reading, “Closed, hunting for a barber.”
“I’d like to see another barber go in there, but there aren’t any barbers in the area,” Gray said. “It’s an occupation that’s dying, I guess.
“I was trying to get my kids or grandkids interested,” he continued. “But none of them [have shown interest] yet… maybe next year.”
There is only one other barber shop on Mount Desert Island: the Harbor Barber in Southwest Harbor.
Gray leases the building from Witham Family Hotels, which owns the property. The second floor of the shop is used seasonally for employee housing.
“I’d like to keep the barber shop going there,” David C. Witham said. Bither had the rent paid through the middle of September, Gray said.
On Tuesday, in the nick of time, Peter Warren contacted Gray to express interest in opening the shop again. Warren cuts hair at the Man Cave Barber Shop in Ellsworth. He expects to have the shop open by the end of this week.
Barber shops were in their heyday when Gray got his start in the early 1960s. After serving in the Army, he signed up for a six month course at Hanson’s School of Barbering in Lewiston.
After graduation, his first job was in Orono, at the University of Maine barbershop. He admits to being “a little nervous” when his first customer sat down in the chair. And he admits he was slow. But that soon changed.
“There were three other barbers,” Gray recalled. “I just kind of picked up some of their good habits and I got faster after awhile.”
He went into business for himself on Main Street in Bar Harbor, and while his barber shop moved a few blocks up from 5 Main Street to 268 Main Street, he’s been a fixture in Bar Harbor for more than half a century.
Mosaic Salon on 312 Main Street began offering “barber cuts” on Thursday mornings from 8 -10 a.m. for $18. “We’re doing a walk-in clinic,” said Amanda McLaughlin of Mosaic, “covering for Barber Ray.”