By Barrett Baker
Photos by Jim Pile
One good trait of a great barber is having the gift of gab—being able to converse with a multitude of people from different backgrounds and interests with the same enthusiasm and warmth. Donna Smith, the owner of 4th Generation Luxury Mobile Barber Shop brings that to the table and a whole lot more when it comes to getting a haircut. For one thing, she still believes in the tradition of using a straight razor for shaves. For another thing, she’ll bring her services right to the front door of your home or office.
“I really am a fourth-generation barber,” Smith says. “My dad and his father still cut hair. My grandfather, at age 84, has been cutting hair for 67 years.” She never knew her great grandfather, who passed away before she was born, but she has done some genealogy searches and has found census reports that prove he’s where it all started.
However, the idea for a mobile barbershop came from her father, who sent her an article from Facebook that showed how another woman had turned an Airstream trailer into retro hair salon. “It was kind of a joke then,” Smith says. “But after considering it a little more, I thought, ‘That would be rather neat.’” An opportunity fell in her lap in April 2016, and by November she was up and running in a Mercedes Sprinter 3500 van that was completely custom built in Virginia Beach.
In addition to an original 1949 barber chair that has been fully restored, the mobile barber experience offers two flat screen televisions—one that has a PlayStation4 hooked up to it, while the other is reserved for DVDs, if that’s what the customer prefers. She has Sirius radio and charging stations for every kind of electronic device currently used. She even has two leather chairs with seatbelts for passengers, and there is a full workstation in the back of the van. If you want something to drink during your visit, the van comes with a beverage cooler.
One might think that such a luxury experience would cost a pretty penny, but Smith keeps her rates very affordable, considering the types of services and convenience provided. A haircut is just $25, military cuts are $20, beard trims are $10, and her famous, straight razor shave is only $35. “Anything you can count on from a regular barbershop, you can get from me,” Smith says. “After every haircut, I always do a hot lather shave around the ears and on the back of the neck, which a lot of barbers don’t do anymore. The straight razor is part of the history and heritage of being a barber, so it’s still important to me to provide that as part of my services.”
Operating under the motto: “A modern convenience for today’s busy professionals,” Smith works primarily in Virginia Beach, but she will schedule appointments in other locations, depending on demand. She eventually hopes to make ties with the military bases so she can make those a regular stop, and she’d like to eventually set up in Downtown Norfolk on a given day so local businessmen don’t have to use up their lunch hour travelling back and forth from their current barber. “I’ll just find a place to park somewhere, and they can come down directly to me.”
Credit cards and gift cards are accepted. Extended hours are Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m., and Saturday from 2–7 p.m. To make an appointment, call or text 757-751-5149 or email email@example.com. You can also visit Smith’s website at 4thGenBarber.com.