When Milton Smith's barbershop flooded during Hurricane Matthew, all he could recover were a single barber's chair and a 100-year-old barber pole.
The shop had filled up with five-and-a-half feet of water, almost above the mirrors. And everything Smith had spent his career building was gone.
"I lost everything I had," Smith said.
"All I could save was the old barber's chair, and everything else was underwater."
Smith was faced with a choice. He could quit, ending a 50-year career as a barber which started when he graduated barber school in 1968. Or, he could start the long process of rebuilding. Smith chose the latter, despite fears that it might not be his choice at all.
"I did not want to quit work, and my customers certainly did not want me to quit work," he said. "The old style barber, it's hard to find one. It just worried me, because I was afraid that it may be the end, because of losing everything, having to buy everything all over again, it was expensive."
The toughest part, Smith said, was finding a new building. He overcame that obstacle, and in the spring of 2017, he reopened the Mar Mac Barbershop in a trailer sitting just off of U.S. 117 across from the Wayne County Fairgrounds. Soon, his old customers began to find him again, and business has returned to something like normal.
Smith credits his returning clientele to an old-school mentality.
"Now, they don't even teach a lot of the stuff in barber school that they taught us. They taught us to do a precision haircut, and it really had to stand out," he said. "Now, you see the chains that come through, the big chains, and they don't take the pains with a haircut that I do. I don't want you to come get a haircut here one month and then go to Joe's and then go to Bill's, I want you to come to mine because I give you a haircut you can't get anywhere else."
Smith goes out of his way to help those who have supported his business for a long time. He regularly spends time cutting hair in nursing homes and hospitals, and has even given the recently deceased their last haircut before their wake or funeral.
"If you're sick in the hospital, I'll go cut your hair. If you're in a nursing home, I'll go cut your hair. A lot of people won't do that," Smith said. "I spend a lot of time in nursing homes and hospitals cutting people's hair."
Mar Mac Barbershop is open for walk-ins every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and by appointment on Friday. To make an appointment or for more information, call 919-922-1933.