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Farewell to the Jungle

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Former Hair Jungle owner Barbara McGoff shares some memories with her daughter Kim in the shop last week.

Former Hair Jungle owner Barbara McGoff shares some memories with her daughter Kim in the shop last week.

Although the memories will live with them forever, the chances for mom and daughter Barbara McGoff and Kim Bobbitt to reminisce in the shop they called home since Halloween 1991 is running out.

On Dec. 17, 1987, McGoff opened the Hair Jungle at 4645 Navy Road offering hair cuts and cosmetology. A few years later the  business moved to its second and final location 7816 Highway 51 providing customers chances to enteract with McGoff and staff over birthday parites, weddings and of course Halloween events. Being semi-retired for the last three years, McGoff decided to officially close her shop Feb. 2.

“I retired three years ago when I was 65 and I couldn’t cut hair anymore,” McGoff said. “I have serious back problems. I can’t have that one-on-one relationship with my customers anymore. That’s the part I like. So I wanted to totally retire. Running a business is not what I wanted to do.”

From day one of the Hair Jungle, McGoff and family had a simple mission.

“What I said from the very beginning, lets have a whole lot of fun, make a whole lot of memories and a little bit of money,” Bobbitt said. “The bottom line is we did that. We watched people grow up and we became their friends.”

Bobbitt and her sister Candice both worked in the shop over the years. In the Hair Jungle’s 25 years of business dozens of stylist, barbers and hair designers called the shop home.

“It was never about dollar signs,” McGoff said. “Success is not always a dollar sign. I gave people a chance to get a job. A lot of people came right out of school to here. Some were just working part time going to college. Some are now nurses, some are now teachers. I always told them their job didn’t come first, their families did.

“The shop was very successful,” she added. “It never made a lot of money. But I’ve seen a lot of awesome careers and things come out of here from people who are now legal assistants, nurses and doctors.”

The little girl who grew up in a small town in Arkansas knew years  ago she wanted to be a barber. At at time when there were few female barbers, McGoff earned her license in 1971.

“When I opened up here, I didn’t know a lot of people,” McGoff recalled. “But I found out the best of both worlds. The people who grew up here, when I would go into Maxwell Hardware, the people really helped you. I found the best of both worlds with the military people too. They would come in every week to get a hair cut. I would tell you, ‘You don’t have to pay me every week. Just come by and see me.’”

After moving to Lucy and opening the shop in the heart of Millington, McGoff developed lifelong friendships and relationships with people like Donna Percer, Jim Mahannah and family and Thomas Paige and his family.

The hotel owner’s family frequented McGoff’s shop. At one point, she was trimming the hair of 27 people in Paige’s family.

With the name of the shop in mind, customers gave McGoff gifts like an original Exxon Tiger painting, a human-size giraffe, animal-themed art and live plants.

“It’s been wonderful,” McGoff said. “I got paid for working on my friends. How many people get paid for working on their friends all day long. Your enemies aren’t gonna come see you. After I started cutting their hair, they became my closest friends.

“It’s not about the money,” she added. “ It’s about the people. I wouldn’t live anywhere else but Millington, Tenn. I love it out here.Those kind of relationships. It wasn’t about cutting hair. That’s a personal relationship with your customers right there. I’m just beaming with joy that God choose this profession for me.”

Bobbitt said it’s time for McGoff to spend time with her, Candice and their brother Billy. She wants her mother to take time with her grandchildren and travel without a hair show involved.

“We think she’s paid her dues,” she said. “And now we want our Mama. It’s stressful and we want to have a Mama. We want to be able to go to lunch and just be with our Mama.”

Although the doors are officially closed, McGoff’s heart will always have an open spot for the Hair Jungle. And those who sat in her chair over the years will always be a part of her.

“I had a 4-year-old boy walk through that door one Saturday,” she recalled. “He just passed up everyone up here and went straight back there and climbed up into my chair. The receptionist I had at the time, she come back there and said, ‘Do you have an appointment for Ms. Barbara?’ He said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘I think Ms. Barbara is too busy.’ I was up here talking to someone who was leaving.

“She said, ‘Can someone else cut your hair?’” McGoff continued. “‘No, nobody else is going to cut my hair.’ She then said, ‘Well, Ms. Barbara is busy. She can’t cut your hair.’ Yes she can. She’s the best hair cutter in this place.’ She asked him, ‘How do you know that?’ He said, ‘Because she cuts my hair. That’s how I know.’”












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February 2013
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