Essex Road cutting crew: family barbers celebrate 60 years
Patriarch talks of his happiness seeing his grandchildren working in the business he set up
09 August, 2019 — By Emily Finch
George Demetriou sits in the barber’s chair with, from left, Luke, Eleni, Niki and George Jnr
A BARBER shop in Essex Road that has seen three generations from the same family cutting locks is planning its 60th anniversary celebrations.
George Demetriou, 83, originally set up in Newington Green back in 1960 before moving to the current shop in the 1990s.
He featured as a barber in Quadrophenia, the 1979 film on mod culture in London.
His grandchildren George, 30, and Luke, 24, are now running George’s at 140 Essex Road after taking over from their father, Jim.
George Senior, who now spends most of his retirement growing fruit and veg on his allotment, still visits the shop every three weeks with his “missus” Eleni to get his hair cut.
He said: “I’ve been working as a barber since I was nine years old. I still remember the orange box my boss gave me to stand on to reach the customer’s hair. It makes me very happy that my son Jim and now my two grandchildren are carrying on my shop under my name.”
He had to cut his career short after losing most of his sight in both eyes in 1992.
“I woke up in the morning and I couldn’t see out of one eye. There was no pain, nothing,” he said.
Despite extensive treatment at Moorfields hospital he was told there was nothing they could do to fix the haemorrhage on the optical nerves.
“I miss it a lot here. I would have been on these chairs. I’d still be doing it. I always told myself – even as a nine-year-old – to not give up work until I was a millionaire. I wish I could be cutting the hair of the great-grandchildren of my early customers,” he said.
George Snr moved from Cyprus to London as a young man and has owned a barber shop in various locations around the borough including outside the Royal Agricultural Hall – now known as the Business Design Centre.
The hall used to house the Royal Mail parcel depot after the sorting office at Mount Pleasant was bombed during the war.
“There were a thousand postmen coming in and out 24 hours a day. I was in my shop at half past six in the morning and when the night shift finished the postmen would have a haircut, go home, have a shower and go to bed,” he said.
He said he held a spirit level over a client’s head to ensure he cut hair straight but now “every barber seems to use mechanical clippers”.
George Snr’s son Jim took up the clippers after his father lost most of his vision but he now works in the building trade, leaving his sons to pick up the hair on the shop floor.
In line with keeping everything in the family, Jim’s wife Niki runs the ladies hairdressing salon at the back of the barber shop.
She said: “It makes me so proud seeing my sons keep up the family name. It’s lovely to see them working here but it was quite a surprise when they became barbers.
“I didn’t know what they were going to be.”
George Jnr said he enjoyed the “social side” of barbering and added: “It’s fun, a great atmosphere here. I loved coming into work with my dad. It’s in our blood.”
He said it was now “tough” being a barber in Essex Road with around a dozen other competitors nearby.
“It’s hard to keep a small business going when you’ve got so much competition but I want to carry on the family business as long as I can with my brother,” he said.