The red-white-and-blue barber's pole is still out front at 3402 Troost. The painted pillar outside the former Barbershop 67 feels permanent, feels like it's helping hold up the weight of this neighborhood.
On a recent Thursday morning, the door swings open at the shop, now called Diamond Cuts. Owner Phil Diamond Jr.'s cheeks rise with a grin as wide as the brim of his Chicago White Sox cap.
" 'Sup, Larry?" Diamond asks, putting his clippers down to shake hands with and hug one of the clients at his six-month-old barbershop. The place's identity has come together in pieces: a white pool table from Craigslist, a Ms. Pac Man arcade game, five black-and-chrome barber chairs in front of a bank of mirrors. Diamond has cut hair for a decade. This is the first time that his name has been on the sign. "When I get enough stuff up on the wall, it's going to look like Applebee's," he jokes.
That the vanity lights above the mirrors would shine again was something that didn't seem likely a year ago. Last January, Craig Carlock closed the doors at Barbershop 67 for the last time, his small business crushed under the weight of a horrific crime: an attempted robbery on November 16, 2011, that ended in the slaying of 53-year-old barber Joe Jackson.
In 2009, Carlock, a draftsman by trade, spotted a shuttered church on Troost and had an idea. He had spent his teenage years in a barbershop run by his stepfather, Leslie McIntosh. Carlock, who grew up near 39th Street and Indiana, was a broad-shouldered offensive lineman in those days for Paseo Academy.
"The barbershop was where I got my role models," says Carlock, now 44. "I loved the environment. It was just a great mix, a place where a construction worker could be sitting next to a city councilor." He wanted to see the same kind of mix on Troost. He named his new business after his high school jersey number and began working to transform the space.
Over time, he found barbers — Vanessa Alexander and Jackson among them — who shared his vision of a safe place where people could congregate. Carlock was a fixture at the shop, sweeping the trash on the sidewalks in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter.
"I always told people I didn't end up on Troost," Carlock says. "I wanted to be there. Why wouldn't it be there? A dollar is not different just because it's in a different part of town."
But if Carlock, who calls himself an "eternal optimist," believed that the neighborhood was changing, he wasn't blind to the realities outside his window. He installed a buzzer on the front door for the protection of his barbers, Alexander and Jackson.
"The shop was almost immune to what was going on around it," Carlock says, "And then it was no longer immune."
Eight days before Thanksgiving in 2011, Jackson buzzed in 22-year-old Georgio White and 24-year-old David O. Waters. Jackson was alone, waiting for the day's final customer. He had been cutting hair for two decades and had closed his own shop only five weeks before he started renting a chair at Diamond Cuts.
"Joe was a veteran barber, who could talk about anything," Carlock recalls. "He was outgoing, with the kind of people skills that young barbers need to learn."