Ithaca, N.Y. — What’s the status of the Cornell Barber Shop?
Anyone walking by the Commons this weekend could view the devastating damage sustained to Simeon’s Restaurant and the apartments above. But not much information has emerged, as of yet, about the status of the historic barbershop located in the basement below the rubble.
While wandering around the scene, I was approached by Jordan Matthews, a barber at the Cornell Barber Shop, who asked whether I might, with my height (6’ 3’’), be able glimpse any damage down the stairwell.
“I’m just trying to get whatever peek I can to figure out the condition of the shop,” Matthews said. “Someone needs to get in there. There’s some very valuable stuff down there, and if Simeon’s goes down, the basement’s not going to survive.”
Barbershop chairs from the early 20th century are still in the basement, Matthews said.
Matthews said he hadn’t heard from Bill Murray, the owner of the century-old shop. The Ithaca Voice was unable to reach Murray.
Police officers at the scene reported seeing Murray come up from his shop on Friday, but said they had not seen him since.
Mayor Svante Myrick said Sunday that he did not know the status of the barbershop but would provide an update as soon as he had more information.
Looking upon the wreckage, Matthews commented on the importance of respecting Murray’s privacy during this difficult time.
“He’s got a family. He’s got people to talk to,” Matthews said.
Murray took over the shop in 1970 and operates it with his son Matt, according to a 2003 article in The Ithacan by reporter Kelly O’Brien titled, “Barbershop stands test of time.”
The shop is known for its classic décor and friendly atmosphere and, according to the same 2003 article, Murray has always taken pride in the resilience and longevity of his shop.
“The smooth tile floors have needed patching only once, and when the occasional tin panel pulled free from the ceiling, Murray has repaired it by riveting flattened tin coffee cans on in their place,” O’Brien wrote in 2003.
O’Brien also wrote that the shop was known for its faithful clientele, which in 2003 included now-deceased Ithaca College professor Willard Daetsch.
On Friday, the ceiling to which Murray affixed his coffee cans stood its greatest test yet. For now, loyal patrons and employees are left to worry about the status and future of their beloved shop.