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."
Waters later told police that White had planned to rob Jackson. The two men worked out their plan at the 34th Street and Troost bus stop.
After Jackson let them inside the shop, White demanded money. The barber passed it to him but then grabbed White's left arm. White pulled a gun from a pocket and fired. The bullet struck his own arm before hitting Jackson. White fired several more shots at Jackson after he was down, and he and Waters fled through the Save-A-Lot parking lot next door. Three witnesses helped police locate White and Waters, who were arrested within 24 hours of the shooting.
"They were able to catch the guys because of the people who lived in the neighborhood," Carlock says. "We live in a time when people won't talk, for fear of retribution. But the shop meant enough that it outraged people to know that someone had done something like that. I like to think they took that risk because Joe and the shop meant something to them. They didn't have to do that. People could have just said, 'I don't know.' "
Carlock opened the shop the Saturday after Jackson was killed. He had to break the news to a few of Jackson's clients when they arrived for appointments. Other customers simply came to sit and talk and cry in the comfort of the barbershop. Jackson's chair would remain unfilled.
"When crime occurs in a business, people believe it will be able to bounce back," Carlock says. "But that couldn't happen here. Because this was a barbershop, it was like it happened in your home.
"What happened didn't change how I felt about the area," Carlock adds. "The area gets the label. But this wasn't something the community wanted. It was something that two individuals did."
On January 4 of this year, White was sentenced to 20 years in prison, following his second-degree-murder conviction. Waters has a plea hearing Friday, January 18.
The former clients have started to return, but Carlock has not. He says he struggles with guilt and loss. But he remains active in the redevelopment of Hyde Park, working with the Troost Village Community Association. He intends eventually to open another business in the neighborhood.
"I don't want to say I'll be back because I don't think I ever left," he says. "You just can't surrender to those types of things. If you surrender here, you'll have to surrender everywhere."
Diamond Cuts upholds Carlock's community vision, and Diamond says he hopes that the rest of the city can see what he sees through his shop's windows. The glass vibrates as Troost MAX buses roll by. The door buzzer is gone.
"I don't want what happened to be a stigma," Diamond says. "If a barbershop can open in a community and get love from people, it's part of how we start rebuilding Troost."