by J.B. Hyppolite
Frank Watson, 58, owner of Gentlemen’s Preference Hairstyling, a barbershop at 1007 E. Willow Grove Ave. in Wyndmoor, insists that “I’m a barbershop-hair stylist. I basically call myself a “barber stylist.”
Any customer at Gentlemen’s Preference can expect to see the wonderful art of Frank’s mom and to hear a conversation about Philadelphia sports teams. “This is a big sports shop here,” said Frank, who has been in the Chestnut Hill/Wyndmoor area for 33 years. “I’m a total sports nut.”
Most of the people that Frank interacts with, including women, are sports fanatics. “We always talk about setting up a mic in here and having a Daily News Live show in here because it gets pretty funny. It’s like a sports talk show. We always talk about ‘You know you should have a TV in here, you should have a radio in here, like a radio guy, and actually have a 610 (WIP) sports show.’”
Frank is such a rabid Phillies fan that the Philadelphia Daily News featured him during the 2009 World Series. The year before, Frank cut out sports headlines from Daily News and Inquirer and lined his entire shop with the articles.
“The year the Phillies went to the World Series and won (2008), my entire shop was newspaper articles and memorabilia I collected over the years. The next year when they were in it against the Yankees, I did the same thing, and people would stop in as the playoffs were going on just to make sure I was keeping up. It became a tradition,” he said. Frank continued that tradition for the five years in a row (2007-2011) that the Phillies made it to the playoffs.
The Phillies dominate talk during baseball season, but the Philadelphia Eagles tend to be a year-round topic. The sports conversations generally become outright debates. While no one famous has entered Gentlemen’s Preference, Frank’s clientele includes the doctors, lawyers, psychologists and friends of Dave Montgomery, part-owner of the Philadelphia Phillies who lives in the area.
Frank’s business is by appointment only. No walk-ins. “It’s because you’re able to do your best work when your shop isn’t lined up with people waiting for haircuts. When you work at a place that doesn’t work by appointment and people are waiting there for a half-hour, you tend to rush because you’re afraid they’re gonna get up and walk out, and you can’t have the conversation you want to have.”
Though Frank has had Democratic, Republican and Tea Party clients, he tends to shy away from politics and more or less becomes a “yes and no” man when the subject of politics rears its ugly head.
Frank is self-taught. No one else in his family was a barber, but he cut people’s hair even before he was an apprentice. “My brother’s best friend, who was a licensed barber, said, ‘Stop messing around with this and make it your life.’”
Frank, whose apprenticeship was with one of the top “barber stylists” in his hometown of Margate, New Jersey, has been cutting hair for 39 years. He has lived in Philadelphia since 1980, when he worked at a barbershop on Gravers Lane. He has been at Willow Grove Ave for the past 18 years.
“I’ve had a lot of the same clients for 33 years now,” said Frank, who is now cutting the hair of children of customers of a generation ago. “Wyndmoor is a quiet little town, and the people are very nice here. The firehouse is right here; everybody cares about the kids here, the Little League. Every Easter they have an Easter egg hunt. It’s like a little community that nobody really knows about…”
Frank went to Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, NJ., and started becoming a barber after finishing high school. Franks mother, Lorraine, was a well known artist in New Jersey. Her art can be seen and bought in Gentlemen’s Preference Hairstyling. Frank’s mother-in-law, Rose, was a receptionist of his for 27 years. Frank’s wife, Sherry, is a Philadelphia school teacher. His son, Brandon, just got married, and he also has a daughter, Marisa.
Gentlemen’s Preference Hairstyling is open Tuesday through Saturday. For an appointment, call 215-836-7477.