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Veteran F.C. Barber Retires After 61 Years, Honored at City Council

WillardNewFalls Church barber shop owner Willard Edwards of Willard’s Family Hair Center has decided to retire after 61 years and was honored by the Falls Church City Council last week.

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Veteran barber Willard Edwards in his late 20s at his barber shop located in the West End shopping center of Falls Church in 1960. (Photo: Courtesy Willard Edwards)

 

Falls Church barber shop owner Willard Edwards of Willard’s Family Hair Center has decided to retire after 61 years and was honored by the Falls Church City Council last week.

In recent years, Edwards’ shop was invited to relocate at Don Beyer Volvo. But when Beyer acquired a new Kia franchise, Kia mandated a showroom expansion at the dealership that required the space Edwards’ shop was occupying.

Dealership owner Mike Beyer told the News-Press he’d found a way to keep Edwards’ shop in the original plans he submitted to Kia, but that they conflicted with Kia’s 1,000 square-feet requirement.

Beyer said that he and his staff are still brainstorming a position they could make available for Edwards at the dealership.

“He still comes in every single day and has coffee, and talks to the customers. Everyone loved having him here,” said Beyer.

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Willard Edwards (right) met F.C. Mayor Robin Gardner (left) for the first time at last week’s council meeting, when last May 8 was declared “Willard Elmer Edwards Day.” (Photo: News-Press)

Edwards, an 80-year-old West Virginia native, received an honorable send-off at the F.C. Council meeting last week when Mayor Robin Gardner officially declared last May 8 “Willard Elmer Edwards Day.”

He hadn’t met Gardner until then, but was impressed at “how kind the mayor is,” beaming about the fact he’d received such a public goodbye, he said during an interview with the News-Press.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” said Edwards, who moved to Northern Virginia in December 1949 after graduating from Richmond Barber School.

 

Starting at a shop in the Barcroft area of Arlington at the age of 19, Edwards later relocated to the West End shopping center in Falls Church. There, he opened Willard’s Family Hair Center in 1952.

It was in 1996 when Beyer, one of Edward’s clients at the time, opened his car dealership’s doors to Edwards on a rent-free basis under the agreement that Edwards would tell his clients about Beyer’s cars.

The original idea was to bring the dealership’s “Andy Griffith Show”-like fictitious barber shop to life, which Beyer had designed to greet customers at the dealership’s entrance.

“Mike would come into my old shop to get his hair cut and say, ‘Willard, when are you coming to move up to my car place?’ and he’d laugh. That went on for about a year and I never knew if he was teasing or not,” said Edwards, who eventually asked Beyer if he was serious.

Beyer was, and the rest is history. More importantly, Edwards’ captive audience was a win-win business arrangment for Beyer.

“He had to have sold at least 40 cars through his connections,” said Beyer.

Though Edwards’ remained humble about his car-selling skills, he said he looks forward to having more time to spend with his wife, two daughters and three granddaughters.

 

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Willard Edwards (left) in the early 1960s. (Photo: Courtesy Willard Edwards)

But his clients will miss their regular chats with Edwards about life and family that took place in the barber chair.

One of his clients for more than 30 years, Charlie Mayhew of Falls Church, said he doesn’t know where he’s going to go to now to get his hair cut, calling Edwards an “extremely capable barber, a fine Christian man” and someone who “always took the time to make sure he got [Mayhew’s] hair just right.”

Mayhew, a retired colonel, was surprised during his last haircut from Edwards, when he learned the veteran barber had plans to retire within a matter of days.

“It was kind of amusing that day because he made a point to cut my hair shorter than normal, to ‘give me time to find a new barber’,” said Mayhew with a laugh.

Edwards has also cut Mayhew’s son’s hair since he was a boy. Mayhew’s wife, Heather Mayhew, called Edwards “a godsend” for being the first and only barber who kept her son from crying during his haircut.

“When our son was little, everyone who cut his hair brought him to tears. Then, I took him to Willard, and he was so gentle with him that my son shed no more tears in all the years Willard cut his hair,” said Heather.

Not only did Edwards build up a loyal clientele, who he said playfully protested his retirement, but he made house calls for years to homebound clients who were sick or couldn’t leave their homes.

When asked what he planned to do with his newfound free time, Edwards said he “just wants to goof off for awhile.” Yet, two weeks into his freedom, he joked he’s “so bored [he] can’t stand it,” adding that he’s thinking of opening another business.

But don’t expect Willard’s Family Hair Center to reopen.

“I haven’t thought up any ideas just yet, but it won’t be a barber shop,” said Edwards, whose wife still works in Chantilly, with no plans to retire anytime soon. He joked, “I don’t think she wants to be home with me all the time.”

Edwards has also served the community as a member of the Falls Church Lions Club for 10 years, supporting its annual citrus fruit sale and other service projects.

 

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