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Cardiff Character: George Yiacoumi

 Times change, hair styles change, people change but the Yiacoumi Bros Barber shop doesn’t. George Yiacoumi shows us how a place can become the soul of a community.

“My brother Jack is a pain in the ass, but we get along” says George Yiacoumi jokingly with is signature care-free attitude and flat cap. “That’s only because I’m so easy-going,” Jack responds.

Anyone who enters the Yiacoumi Bros Barber in Salisbury Road, Cathays,  knows he will receive reasonable prices and a warm welcome.

You sit in one of the vintage barber chairs and have a cut by Jack or George and realise its one of those rare places which manages to mix character with quality.

A barber shop with grey hair

George,45, wasn’t really interested in becoming a barber when he was young, “that was the last think I wanted to do, I helped my father maybe once a week”.

At 22 he just wanted to be a singer or an actor, “I was very successful, I went to a lot of talent shows, TV shows like the Des O’Connor show. I also did theater acting.” He says while meticulously cutting a client’s hair.

He learned is trade and together with his brother started working in is fathers barber shop at 28.

Is father, a Greek barber, opened the shop  six years after arriving in Cardiff in 1968, and George says is proud to work in a three generations family business, “I challenge any barber shop in Cardiff to show that kind of family history. In fact most of the top barbers in Cardiff are my cousins!”

He recollects how 40 years ago West Indian residents only went to West Indian barbers and British people only went to British Barbers.

“My father opened the first multicultural barber shop. He said if you have money and respect I’ll cut your hair.”

“I remember a time when a drunken man came here, stinking of alcohol and urine and goes ‘Cut my hair huh?’

“My father knew him before he was a drunk, so he did it and after he spent 20 minutes cleaning the chair, but he still couldn’t say no to that man, he didn’t had the hearth for that.

How many places would do that?”

 The end of an era

George considers that the day his father’s barber shop closes will be a sad day for the neighborhood, “I think we’re one of the few places left where when people come in and we make them feel welcomed, we hope when you leave you feel better than when you came in.”

He regrets how nowadays people almost don’t have any choice but to go to big businesses where people just don’t care.

“It’s like Tesco where you go there and they’re like robots ‘Do you have club card? Do you want bag? Thank you, next’”.

He pauses to say goodbye to one customer who is getting out, “Courtesy costs nothing; it’s in my interest to make you come back.”

After getting a haircut in the Yiacoumi Barber shop you have a feeling you’ll come back here one day and George’s son will cut your hair while telling stories about his father.