Three generations of families have sat in the chair at Malcolm’s Barber Shop in Broadstairs and hundreds of young people have had the opportunity to learn about the trade through work experience, apprenticeships and full-time work.
The shop is a mainstay of the town and this week celebrated 50 years in business.
The business was opened by Malcolm Cox on August 1, 1972, when he was just 17-years-old- three weeks away from his 18th birthday – and has flourished ever since.
Malcolm, who still works mornings at the salon, had planned on becoming a chef but his first job in 1967 led to a life-long career.
Malcolm said: “In 1968/69 I left school in the fourth year at Conyngham and went to work at the barbers in Ramsgate called Bernard’s. Bernard was a friend of my brother and I had started there sweeping the floor when I was 13.
“Bernard had two shops and then bought one in Broadstairs in 1970. I moved there from the Ramsgate shop as Bernard had offered me an apprenticeship. When I left school I originally wanted to be a chef but getting an apprenticeship in those days was a good thing, a step up the ladder.
“In the Broadstairs shop I worked alongside Bernard and went to Broadstairs College one day a week.
“In 1972 Bernard decided to sell the three shops. He sold the Ramsgate ones and then asked me if I wanted to buy the Broadstairs one. I said I was young, how would I buy the shop but the bank manager knew my father and set up the bank loan just as I was coming up to 18. The bank manager said I was the youngest person he had ever lent money to so don’t mess it up!.”
Malcolm took on the lease for the shop in the High Street and nine years later bought the freehold.
In 1979 two ladies came in on the top floor for women’s cuts and styling and this became so popular that Malcolm took on an additional premises across the road and Straight Lines salon was born.
Malcolm’s barber shop had a major refurb in 1985. He said: “That’s when it really took off, it was quite something to have a large, luxury barber shop and it grew from there.”
During the years Malcolm has seen many of those who began under his wing go on to make successful businesses of their own.
These include two barbers who now have salons in Australia, two with successful businesses in London and another five with salons in Thanet – as well as the team now at Malcolm’s – Sam, Weston and Matthew.
Malcolm said: “Weston joined 12 years ago as a broom pusher. Six or seven years ago I said to him work hard and I would sell him my share of the business. On September 22, 2019 he took over. I still come in as a self-employed barber and they enjoy me coming in – maybe they’d like to see the back of me sometimes!! All the lads are self-employed barbers and they are a great team to work with and keep me young when I hear what they have been getting up to on their weekends.”
Malcolm, who is also president of the Broadstairs Chamber of Commerce and director of the town’s food festival, received a government award in 2017 for his work with young people and the community.
The Responsible Business Champion award recognised Malcolm for his work as part of a business enterprise Dragons’ Den-type scheme for Year 10 school children, whereby they are invited to put together a team and start a business from scratch. Malcolm’s work with East Kent Business Partnership to provide work experience and work placement opportunities for children at grammar, secondary, academy and special needs’ schools, was also recognised.
The Responsible Business Champions scheme was set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group to celebrate the achievements of community-orientated businesses.
Malcolm said: “That was a nice thing to receive.”
This week people have been popping into the salon to give Malcolm “a pat on the back”.
He said: “The 50 years has been very enjoyable. We have three generations of families come in now and it is quite moving when a youngster comes in and says ‘you cut my grandad’s and my dad’s hair.”
Malcolm says the shop is now in “”the best hands” with Sam, Weston and Matt all being former apprentices, adding: “I can see it doing well for another 50 years.”