AL, UNITED STATES
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — He takes a moment to break from the buzzing of clippers to greet his fellow service member with a smile and handshake, asking all who enter his upbeat barbershop about their day.
To Darryl E. Leach, the owner of a local barbershop in Jacksonville, a warm welcome and friendly conversation is just as important as the haircuts.
“If I walk into an establishment I’ve been to and they remember me, it makes me feel good,” said Leach. “I just treat people the way I like to be treated. A lot of these guys are from other cities so I want to make them feel at home.”
Leach’s barber chair is the closest one to the door, and everyone who walks in is immediately greeted by him in a welcoming fashion.
“I love the way they treat you when you come in,” said Lance Cpl. Hayden Brown, a telephone systems and personal computer intermediate repairer with 2nd Intelligence Battalion. “He remembers your name, and if he doesn’t call you by name, he’ll give you a nickname. I love the atmosphere because (Leach and the other barbers) take the time to get to know me.”
Brown said Leach always greets those who enter, and gives a high five on your way out wishing you a good day.
“He’s definitely got the (public relations) down,” said Brown with a smile. “You’re not going to get this type of friendship and attention anywhere else in town. He’s a great guy, and you can tell he has a good heart.”
Leach discovered his future as a barber during his time in the Navy from 1986 through 1989. While stationed at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia he visited a family member who owned a barbershop and fell in love with the idea of becoming a barber.
“I had a distant cousin of mine who owned a barbershop in Philadelphia,” said Leach. “I saw they had a great time, and made plenty of money. I knew becoming a barber was it for me.”
With a little more than a year remaining before ending his time of active service, he took advantage of the tuition assistance program offered to military members and enrolled to Tri-City Barber School in North Philadelphia.
After leaving the Navy as petty officer second class and graduating from barber school, he spent more than four years cutting hair in the City of Brotherly Love.
In 1993 Leach decided to move back to the Tar Heel state where he was raised to cut the hair of the MCB Camp Lejeune community. Although he was back in his home state, working aboard the base proved to be unsatisfying to him.
“I worked at a barber shop on the base, and it’s like an assembly line because we try to push customers through so everyone can get a haircut,” said Leach. “I don’t like it. Our service members need haircuts done well.”
Leach then realized in order to get things done the way he wanted them to be done, he had to do it himself, and from there he decided to open up a barbershop of his own in Jacksonville.
“What I like most about cutting hair is seeing my customers smile when they get up,” said Leach. “Cutting hair comes natural. I just wait for the smile when they look in the mirror.”
“He makes cutting hair fun and all of the barbers follow his lead,” said Sierra Bryant, a co-worker of Leach. “He’s been a great mentor to me. Everyone who gets to know him remembers him because he is so kind. We’re really like a family here, and it includes the people receiving haircuts.”
Leach said most of his barbers have very little experience so he tries to keep them under his wing and encourages the barbers to speak to customers.
With a large smile on his face Leach said, “You have to be a people person, have good attitude and a positive personality because it helps create great relationships.”
There are dozens of barbers in the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune area, but when Leach cuts hair he gets close to the customer’s head as well as their heart.
“He’s made an outgoing environment that is warm and welcoming to everyone,” said Jerel Carney, a co-worker of Leach. “I can walk in here depressed or down, but by the end of the day I always walk out smiling. There’s more than one type of barber, but (Leach) is one who keeps people smiling.”
This work, Leach offers more than a haircut, by LCpl Nikki Phongsisattanak, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.