Some years ago Doug Shaffer was in a quandary. A sports-addicted hairstylist and half owner of a chain of salons in Indiana, Shaffer was beholden to his business partner. But he longed to run his own place, be his own boss, survive or fail on his own tonsorial talents. "I wanted my own shop," he says, "but I didn't want to be one of those old fuddy-duddy barbers like Floyd of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. Then—boom!—one day it hit me." He would merge his mania for sports with his scissor smarts and go out on his own.
Today, you need an appointment to get your ears lowered at Doug's Sports Cut in Goshen, Ind. The shop is four doors down from Maples Family Dining restaurant on Route 33, if you're coming from Elkhart. But you don't need an appointment if you're in the market for sports memorabilia—posters, collectors' cards, 50-year-old baseball mitts—or if you want to play a quick game of H-O-R-S-E, or sit in the "dugout" and talk sports with Doug. Do watch your step, though. "Customers tend to trip on the bases and the rubber on the pitcher's mound," says Shaffer. "I've thought about taking them out, but the place wouldn't be the same."
Mayberry's Floyd would have no idea what to make of this place. The Sports Cut resembles a barbershop less than it does a field house. The shop's floor features scaled-down football and baseball fields, plus a tiny basketball court complete with parquet flooring, in honor of a certain native Hoosier now plying his trade in Boston Garden. The barber's chair rests squarely atop home plate. In fact, as he whisks snipped locks from the napes of his customers' necks, Shaffer evokes the image of a baseball umpire dusting the plate.
Shaffer charges $7 a cut for those under 14, $8 for everyone else. He doesn't like to say how much of his income is derived from haircuts and how much from deals he cuts—selling and trading cards and memorabilia—but he is definitely onto something. Witness the arrival of the shaggy Anglemyer brothers, Kelly and Barry, on a recent Thursday afternoon. Because he is, at 11, two years older than Kelly, Barry is first in the chair, and wastes no time getting down to business.
June 17, 1990
"I want it spiked like the Boz, with two laser lines on each side. And do you have any '87 Ozzie Smiths in stock?" Shaffer says he will check. Barry is the shortstop on his Little League team and, to hear him tell it, a good one: "The only thing I can't do like Ozzie is a backflip on the field.
"All right! You got the rim fixed!" says Kelly, who has found the court's diminutive basketball. After having the rim re-welded four times in four months, Shaffer has posted a sign: ABSOLUTELY NO SLAM-DUNKING. Kelly contents himself with jacking up three-pointers from shallow right centerfield. The nine-year-old has his own business agenda. "How much is Andre Dawson's rookie card?" he asks Shaffer. It is $33. "Daaaaad," says Kelly in a plaintive voice. "Can you buy me that card?" As he reads The Elkhart Truth in the dugout, Garry Anglemyer does not dignify the question with a response.
Card sales are unpredictable. "Some days you can make five dollars on 'em, some days $500. One day," says Shaffer, his eyes taking on a certain gleam, "I had a whole baseball-card club in here—40 kids, some of them with $40 in their pockets." He gestured at several glass showcases. "I've got every kind of card here—baseball, football, basketball. I've got hockey cards, and I'm going to get [motor] racing cards in here. All cards are collectibles. There are no bad cards."
Should, horror of horrors, the card market dry up, and Shaffer lose his touch with the scissors, he could make an effortless transition to playground monitor. Half a dozen times a day he scolds freshly shorn young clients who insist on running amok through the shop with their lollipops in their mouths. For each such transgressor he has this stock story: "Once I had a little boy who ran around like that with a sucker, and he fell and the stick went into the roof of his mouth."
One's mind need never stray from games at Doug's Sports Cut. Customers can watch the progress of their trims in an enormous mirror designed to look like a baseball, which is official-looking down to the direction of its engraved seams. On the walls are: a Chicago Bears pennant-clock; an ancient Notre Dame varsity blanket; and a handsome, hand-stitched WELCOME HOME, BROOKLYN DODGERS, WORLD CHAMPIONS banner. Directly behind home plate hangs a framed front-page story from the Sept. 12, 1985, Cincinnati Enquirer. The headline reads 4,192, referring to Pete Rose's Ty Cobb-record-breaking hit. What he admired most about Rose, says Shaffer, was his overachieving style of play. "He probably didn't have any more talent than the next guy walking down the street," says Shaffer. "He just wanted it so badly."
Shaffer is a headfirst-slide kind of guy himself. Raised in nearby Elkhart, the self-proclaimed recreational vehicle capital of the world, he designed plumbing systems for RVs for a year after high school. Talk about lousy jobs. "I hated it," he says. He decided he would cut hair for a living, and set out for a barber college in Nashville, "but I got tired of driving." After pulling off I-65 near Louisville, Shaffer phoned directory information. Were there any barber colleges in the area? "Long story short," he says, "I ended up at the Kentucky College of Barbering and Hairstyling."
For eight years after his graduation, Shaffer was co-owner of U.S. Male, a chain of salons. "It was always a lot of hassles, working with a lot of beauticians," he says. "As soon as they'd built up a list of customers, they would go into business for themselves next door." After several years of collecting cards and memorabilia, he opened the Sports Cut last October.
Things are slow around the shop until school lets out, Shaffer says, but at 3 o'clock sharp the place fills up. In the chair now is 11-year-old Mike Everett, for his first cut with Doug. For "rookie" customers, Shaffer recites a kind of pledge of obedience: "I am not a scissor-happy stylist. I don't want to cut your hair once, I want you to come back again and again, so I'll cut it exactly the way you tell me."
"Buzz it," says Mike's mother, Nancy. "He wants a flat-out buzz." Shaffer interprets Mike's silence as consent, and proceeds to shear the youngster's noggin.
Meanwhile, Shaffer's son, Brandon, 9, has arrived. Brandon helps out with card sales after school and on weekends. Right now he is playing hardball with a man in an Army fatigue jacket who is gazing longingly at one of the glass cases. "You sure you can't go any lower on that Harold Baines?" the man asks. Brandon won't budge. When it comes to card trading, he can take care of himself. At a card show two weeks earlier, Brandon came out $100 ahead.
Four other card hunters need attention. Shaffer has a customer in the chair and three more in the dugout waiting their turn. The phone rings. "Hi, LaRayne," says Shaffer. "Their buzzes grew out? O.K., I'll put 'em down for 4:15 tomorrow, the Siegmann brothers." Shaffer is never quite so happy as when things are bordering on chaos, like now. "I've put a lot of time and money into this place," he says, "but mostly a lot of heart. We have more fun here."
Of course he's happy. The Sports Cut is thriving, and Shaffer has made it happen. Just like the time he met Pete Rose—sort of. In September '81 the Phillies had just lost a game in Chicago. Shaffer lingered outside the visiting team's exit. When Rose came out and got on the bus, Shaffer followed him. "When I got on, I could see he was sitting about six rows back, and that I probably wouldn't be able to shake his hand. So—I don't know what came over me—I turned into Knute Rockne. I said, 'You guys lost a tough one today, but I fully expect you to go on and win the division.' Then I stepped off the bus like I owned the team or something and walked back to my friends.
"I'm telling you," he adds, "you can do anything in this world if you act like you know what you're doing."
Anything but run in Doug's Sports Cut with a lollipop in your mouth.