Larry A. Franklin Sr. is a close shave expert.
He’s been giving them for more than 40 years. He owns one of Mass Street’s five barbershops and still provides the old-fashioned service of a shave with the straight razor, lather and hot towels.
Born in Iola, Franklin grew up in Independence and Junction City with his three siblings, and enjoyed fishing, fooling around with friends and swimming. He served in the Navy from 1965 to 1969 before attending barber school in Hutchinson.
“As a kid I loved going to barber shops with my dad and liked the way barbers interacted with customers,” he says. “They seemed to be respected by almost everyone in the community. When one of them suggested barber school, I decided to give it a go. We studied the body’s nine systems, learned to shave with a straight razor, cut, trim, shampoo, color, perm and straighten hair. We had over 1,500 hours of classroom study and practiced on customers brave enough to give us a try.”
Franklin pats his thinning hair and admits he once sported a perm himself.
“In the late ’60s and early ’70s big hair was fashionable for men, and permanents were popular,” he says with a laugh.
Franklin worked at different barber shops around Kansas, married his wife, Kathryn, in 1982, and opened his first shop in Plaza 21, Topeka, in 1987.
“It was a challenging time and place to open a barber shop,” he says.
Franklin eventually closed the shop and moved to Lawrence.
“Kathryn is from Tonganoxie and her family still lives there, and I’m an avid KU sports fan, so when we got an opportunity to move here we jumped at it,” he says. “We love Lawrence.”
He worked with Tom and Mike Amyx for six years, bought Southbank Barber shop, 924 Mass., in 1994, and renamed it ‘Larry’s.’
“I enjoy working for myself and being my own boss,” Franklin says. “Of course I have many bosses because the customers are in charge and tell me exactly what they want.”
His son Larry Jr. (LJ) became a barber in 1991 and has worked alongside him for the past 15 years.
After 41 years, Franklin remains animated about his job.
“Barbering is a great but vanishing profession. It’s allowed me, a happy people-loving person, to contribute to people’s well-being,” he says.
“A fresh haircut and a real close shave can help people feel so much better and puts a smile on their face. I love interacting with and working on customers, and I get to meet people from all over the world.”
He derives particular satisfaction when customers, who first visited his shop as youngsters with their fathers, now bring in their own sons for haircuts.
“In barbering you get the privilege of sharing moments in people’s lives that shape them — births, deaths, marriages, divorces, moves and going off to serve our country,” he says.
“I’ve cried and laughed with customers and feel honored they chose to share these things with me.”