Dunn’s ‘Oldest Black Barbershop’ Gets New Look

Barber Lee Burrus works on a customer inside City Barber Shop.DAILY RECORD PHOTO/KATELYN LUCAS

By Katelyn Lucas
Dunn Daily Record

DUNN – City Barber Shop, located at 109 W. Edgerton St. in Dunn, has had its first remodel in the business’s 47-year lifespan. Throughout the remodel, the shop owners focused on customer comfort while keeping an homage for their history.

This landmark business — known as the “oldest black barbershop in Dunn” — has a lot of history.

Renovations included an interior paint job, the bathroom and the whole exterior. While owners of City Barber Shop wanted an upgrade, they did not want to lose sight of the rich past of the business dating back to 1976. Co-owner Arthur Johnson Jr. and barber Lee Burrus even use the same cash register from when the shop opened. 

The late Arthur Johnson Sr. began cutting hair at Frank’s Barber shop in Erwin. He worked as a brick mason and cut hair on the weekends for 18 years before branching out on his own. 

Standing outside the City Barber Shop are, from left, James Edward Janey Jr. and barbers Arthur Johnson Jr. and Lee Burrus.DAILY RECORD PHOTO/KATELYN LUCAS

He bought the building in downtown Dunn from Henry Lewis Johnson and opened up the City Barber Shop with Johnny “Red Top” McLamb.

The senior Johnson continued to own and operate the shop until his passing in 2019. His sons, Arthur Johnson Jr. and Tony Johnson, now manage the family business.

“He did everyone right when they came in here,” Arthur Johnson Jr. said when asked about his father inside the shop. Arthur Johnson Jr. began working with his father in 1980 once he was released from the Marines and finished barber school. His son, Reginald Johnson, also worked there after finishing barber school in 1983. Barbers Lee Burrus and James Gainey Jr. also work in the shop, continuing the Johnson legacy of quality service.

“When Arthur Johnson passed away in 2019, he asked for the funeral procession to pass by the City Barber Shop,” Tony Johnson said. “He was so proud of how he built a very successful business on his own with very little money.”

This cash register has been used at City Barber Shop since it opened in 1976.DAILY RECORD PHOTO/KATELYN LUCAS

His father gave 100% of his time to the barbershop as it grew in business. He never took a vacation.

“He only had a ninth-grade education, but was very sharp as a businessman and had a great work ethic, and also great common sense when it came to business,” said Tony Johnson.

The City Barber Shop offers more than haircuts and shaves. It offers a sense of community.

“It’s more than a barbershop,” Burrus said. “People come in for a listening ear, a mentor, or to get advice.” 

Standing inside the City Barber Shop are from left, James Edward Janey Jr. and barbers Arthur Johnson Jr. and Lee Burrus.

Both Arthur Johnson Jr. and Burrus are eager to delve into the history behind the barbershop to anyone who is interested. The “walk-in only” mentality the shop holds allows for clients to sit and talk in the newly remodeled old-school feeling of the main room of the barbershop.

“This isn’t our barbershop, this is y’all’s barbershop,” he told customers on a recent stop at the shop.

Working there for 24 years, Burrus has been there for over half of the shop’s life. When asked about his favorite part of the job, he answered “meeting people, talking to people.” He encourages everyone, who sits in his chair, including children who are getting their first “grown-up” haircut. 

Burrus has a long list of regulars.

The City Barber Shop has seen many customers and barbers over the years, including Cory Williams, who started his own business called Another Barbershop of Dunn.

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