New Jersey Barbershop Celebrates Being One Of The Oldest Black-Owned Businesses
A Black woman inherited a family business back in the 1960s. If not advised by her father, the business may not have lasted long enough to become one of the oldest Black-owned businesses in the community.
According to NJ.com, Eddie’s Barbershop owner Valerie Roberts was handed the family business and felt that the neighborhood of Asbury Park would need more time to be ready for a woman barber who can cut just as well as the men. She didn’t want to go through the difficulties that people in the city may not be prepared to see a lady barber in the neighborhood. But, due to some advice from her father, she stayed.
“I told my father I was going back to New York because this city isn’t ready for a lady barber,” said the 80-year-old Roberts. “He told me if you run from difficult situations, I’d never make it in life.”
That and her resilience have kept her in the neighborhood where the business still operates today.
Roberts’ father, Edward Hilton, opened the barbershop on Springwood Avenue near Dewitt in 1940. After running the business for over 20 years, his health started to fail, so she took over Eddie’s Barbershop.
As with any business, Roberts had to survive during rough times. She said the business was almost lost due to race riots in the 1970s.
“That Fourth of July was one of the scariest days I can remember,” she recalled. “Cops stood on the track with rifles ready to shoot anyone trying to cross over into the nicer part of Asbury.
“A friend of mine helped me remove everything in the shop during the looting and hide it in his grocery store,” Roberts said. “It wasn’t easy, but we survived.”
Eugene Berry has been getting his haircut at Eddie’s Barbershop for over 20 years and plans to continue that tradition.
“Val is an example of what Asbury Park should be,” said Berry. “She’s a living example of perseverance and the only one I’d let touch these curls.”
Now, Roberts wants to continue the legacy and hand the business down to her grandson.