By Atiya Irvin-Mitchell
On the Northside, there is a barbershop that acted as a second home for much of the Manchester community: Richey’s Barbershop.
On July 6, James Richey, the man who made the shop a fixture in the neighborhood, died at the age of 77. After Richey’s passing, it became clear that the man behind the haircuts was what made his shop so special.
“Mr. Richey was the most caring, loving, compassionate, understanding person I’d ever met,” said Amber Suber, whose father was a lifetime customer at Richey’s barbershop. Richey was a part of her childhood and a source of encouragement to her as an adult. Richey’s haircuts were passed down from parents to their children like heirlooms. It was commonplace for many men to get their first haircuts from Mr. Richey, as he was affectionately called, and then bring their sons to him for a lifetime of patronage.
For the Northside, Suber said, Richey wasn’t just a barber, but a father figure. Frequent customers describe the barbershop as a warm, home-like place where they could find solace as well as a haircut. As news of Richey’s passing spread, friends and customers took to social media, ready with anecdotes of the man that spanned around 50 years of business.
“Mr. Rich was a LEGEND in our community, he was well-respected, well-loved, and of course, he’ll be well-missed…. Rest Easy Mr. Rich!!” Nickye Valentine posted in the “Manchester Pittsburgh” Facebook group.
Other commenters shared their experiences with Richey as a barber, teacher, and mentor. “The first look at black entrepreneurship of a lot of us in the community! You could always get a laugh from Mr. Richey,” Dwight Sturvantis wrote.
Richey earned a reputation for his generosity. Long-time customers recalled the ways he gave back to the community. For some people this meant dispensing his wisdom, while for others it was donating his money to neighborhood causes.
According to Suber, Richey also gave his time. “He’d give free haircuts to kids he knew didn’t have any money,” said Suber. “He was like Dr. Phil. His felt like his job wasn’t just cutting people’s’ hair. He made it a point to be there for people and help them solve their problems.” Suber recalled the times Richey offered words of encouragement when she was raising two children.
Following Richey’s death, his funeral was held at Victory Baptist Church. He was buried on the Northside. His barbershop will be taken over by an apprentice.
“He was a real gentleman and that’s what’s going to be missed the most about him,” said Suber. “Just knowing him was enough to make you love him.”