The story of Luther ‘Skip’ Skipworth and the Berryville, Arkansas barbershop that still carries his name
In 1982 I took a road trip to Arkansas with some friends from art school in Houston. For them it was a visit home. For me, it was simply a quick trip to someplace I’d never been.
I remember that the landscape was beautiful. The towns were small, quaint, and it all felt like a step back in time.
I don’t specifically remember taking the photograph of Skip’s Barber and Beauty Shoppe, but I’ve always found the place in the photograph intriguing. Finally, 37 years later, I’ve decided to learn more about the little barber shop on the corner of Church and Hubbert Streets in Berryville, Arkansas. I even traveled back to Berryville to take updated images of Skip’s place.
Luther “Skip” Skipworth was born on August 7, 1900 in Missouri. His wife Faye was 9 years younger and born in Texas. They had a daughter named Jorita, born in 1931.
In an interview Skip’s granddaughter, author Jan Netolicky, said that Skip worked as a barber in his Berryville shop for over 60 years. She wrote a fictional story set in Skip’s Barber Shoppe, featuring many real facts about Skip. She said Skip’s desire to provide a home and work for wayward young men on his farm was one of the catalysts for the storyline of her book. I’ve placed a link to her book below.
Skip died after suffering a stroke at age 85. He left an iconic landmark behind. His recently retouched wall sign on the Hubbert Street side of the building is today a popular Instagram spot. The original wall signs were old and fading, even when I photographed them in 1982.
About the Skip’s Barber Shoppe building
The photograph of Skip’s Barber Shoppe, shot when I was 19, employs many of the same ingredients I still love in photographs today: historic architecture with loads of character, faded old vintage signs, and an interesting backstory.
The building was constructed in the 1880s, and prior to its life as a barber shop, the 1,748 sq. ft. space served as the Berryville Post Office. It sits on the corner of Berryville’s Public Square, at 102 East Church Street in Berryville, Arkansas.
At 60+ years, Skip reigns as the longest-running tenant in the history of the old building. Since Skip’s closed, the space has held a variety of shops and businesses, and currently houses two businesses: a surveying company and a deli.
Details from the National Register of Historic Places application
Below is a direct copy-and-paste of information about the Skip’s Barber Shoppe building pulled from Section 7, Page 19 of the National Register of Historic Places application form, which covers the entirety of Berryville’s Public Square, filed in 2016.
Berryville Post Office/Skip’s Barber & Beauty Shop, Contributing 102 East Church Street, 1880s CR1001
Located on the northeastern corner of East Church and Hubbert streets, the Berryville Post Office/Skip’s Barber & Beauty Shop building is an example of the Late Nineteenth Century Standard Commercial style. The building is a one-story, one-part commercial block with a flat roof. Local brick mason Charlie Pyron was the builder.
The building has a rectangular plan, brick masonry construction set in English bond, and a stone foundation. It has a corner entrance with double-leaf, wood panel and glass doors; a wood panel currently fills the transom opening. The wood storefront on East Church Street is two bays wide with unadorned wood bulkheads and display windows with single-light transoms. The storefront cornice consists of two recessed panels, and possibly the original sign panels have been removed. A metal canopy provides shade for the storefront. A soldier course frames the unadorned frieze.
Street roofline has a corbeled brick cornice and brick parapet. The west street façade has a stepped brick parapet and all of its window openings have brick infill.
A wall sign for “Skip’s Barber & Beauty Shop” and a repainted “Coca-Cola” wall sign are located on the Hubbert Street façade. The rear of the building has brick masonry set in common bond. The three-bay-wide northern side (rear) of the building on the alley has a central, segmental arch entrance with replacement door and transom, modern replacement wood stoop, two segmental arch windows and stone sills, and a segmental arch basement window. The eastern window on the rear has one-over-one, double-hung, wood sash and the western window opening has a wood panel infill. The roofing material is rolled roof. The total floor area is 1,748 square feet.
What the well-defined architectural descriptions described above can’t do is provide us a glimpse of the human side of the barber shop’s story. He must have cut hair for generations of local families. Imagine all the stories and friendships that were formed. Skip only had a few years left when I stood in front of his shop to snap the photograph. I wish I’d gone inside to meet him and to get a haircut.
I’m glad the over 130-year-old building is still being used and maintained. There has been a repaint of the old Coca-Cola sign, which looks startling above the delicately retouched legacy sign for Skip’s. The collapsing awning has been replaced, and the transom window has been covered with horrific signs for two businesses. Two high windows near the Coca Cola ad have been bricked-up.
Skips Barber Shoppe sign repaint isn’t quite accurate
The Google Street View screen capture below shows the Skip’s location in 2008, when the wall signs had become quite obscure.
Below that are two photographs that I made on a 2019 visit to Berryville, which shows the repainted wall signs. Compared to my photograph from the 1980s, we can see the refurbished sign isn’t quite accurate — notice the arrow/swoosh that builds off the word “Beauty.” On the original seen in my 1980s photo, the arrow swirls off the B.
A small white tag near the door says, “Ghost Sign” Luther Alexander “Skip” Skipworth Licensed 1938-1985.
The Skipworth Summer, written by Jan Netolicky, Luther Skipworth’s granddaughter
Jan Netolicky wrote a fictional novel based on her beloved grandfather and his barber shop.
This is the Amazon synopsis: “Ross Benedict is a 9th grade teacher who breaks his vow never to return to a small Arkansas town and the memories that live there. He wants no reminders of the hurt and loss he experienced when he was a troubled, scared teenager. But the inescapable pull of that long-ago time draws him back to the home of his unlikely mentor, 75 year-old Luther Skipworth, and Ross recalls a tumultuous, ultimately heartbreaking summer. A unique work of fiction, The Skipworth Summer is inspired by actual details from the real life of Luther Skipworth.”
I love the cover photograph, which gives us a more detailed viewpoint of Skip’s building in its heyday.
Thanks for reading!