When a rogue almond very nearly injured a prospective client, Richard Scrilla Straker knew his barber’s chair needed to be
The humble set-up, under an almond tree, including nothing more than an extension cord from his home for the electric trimmer, a pair of scissors, a chair and an admittedly inexperienced barber, would give way to a thriving cottage industry –– an emotional touchstone for a community and an example of the merits of drive and tenacity.
Richard Straker, aka Scrilla, was an aspiring rapper back in 1999, having chosen the moniker to suit his style and stage presence about the same time as the almond incident.
“I come back from the house with the clippers and find an empty chair,” he said laughing.
There have been a few patchy cuts along the way, but Richard has gained the reputation of The Village Barber in Dalkeith, The Bayland and surrounding communities. What he has earned most importantly is the respect of his chosen moniker Scrilla –– which, in the urban rap world, means money, paper, [con]fetti, or anything, to follow the analogy, that can “make it rain [money, especially $100 bills]”.
On the Saturday night I visited, there were more than a few Grantleys passed over for a simple “round-up”, or for the complicated designs that inevitably led to flair and street credit in some circles.
So, the young man with the big dreams slowly built his barber shop, his clientele growing with it, along with its reputation as a good liming spot, especially if at the end of a long day you wanted a cold beverage and a healthy helping of any of the dishes off Mum’s menu.
The funny thing about that menu, as the business grew and a bar was added, patrons seemed to gravitate towards one particular dish, one seemingly more humble in its culinary flair than dishes like pineapple chicken and spicy beef stew. People wanted corned beef and white rice.
“Now you could believe, right, she has a vast menu; she got [macaroni] pie, chicken and chips, lamb stew, green banana, sweet potato . . . and people does want corned beef and rice with li’l steamed veg on the side, and some coleslaw!” the proud
And “Mum’s food” is available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
The Village Barber has a loyal clientele that extends beyond the immediate districts that come mostly for a good lime and a great haircut, and business is booming.
But tragedy struck in 2013. The expanded wooden structure that accommodated the barber shop, as well as The Village Boutique were destroyed by fire. Nothing was salvaged. Scrilla would have to start from scratch.
More than that, the friends who had supported him since operating under the almond tree now didn’t have a place to
hang out and blow off some steam. And they were not having that! This was when Scrilla confirmed who his true friends were.
“The men come and help me put back up the barber shop in a week, because, obviously, this is the men second home! De men say, ‘No, Scrilla, dis gotta be back up, cuz we gotta lime!’
“My carpenter chipped in to help [along with other members of my family].”
So in a week, true to their word, the shop of The Village Barber was up and running again –– full to bursting with happy clients, family members and a few live wires who kept the witty banter and grass-roots social commentary at fever pitch.
With the various aspects of the small business beginning to grow, Scrilla admits fatigue is one of his constant companions –– closer even now that there is karaoke on Saturday nights to a fully stocked open bar. He helps his uncle with the management of that side of things.
All the while, his barber’s chair is seldom empty. Scrilla’s ability to deliver clean cuts, pay attention to small details, and even manage the sale of the clothing in The Village Boutique is an exercise in effective time and energy resource management.
It also shows this energizer of a man has no plans of stopping any time soon.
“My uncle always tell me, right, ‘Work hard when ya young and rest when ya old’, declared the dad of a toddler. “And it got to pay off!”
Now a family man, with a partner he calls a “keeper”, who “is no time waster” and is on his “same wavelength”, Scrilla says that despite his already high adrenaline lifestyle, his daughter is his extra motivation.
Laughter, “reasoning”, lively discussion, repartee, a slick haircut and a cold beverage may all be found at The Village Barber Shop; and if you’re lucky, you’ll run into men like Scott, “Inches”, “Tall Man” and a few other village characters who give as well as they get.
And all this evolved from a rogue almond to the head of an unfortunate client 16 years ago. In his honour, I think it’s time for some of Mum’s corned beef and white Rice –– don’t forget the coleslaw!