Larry Cobb walked into College Barber Shop 36 years ago. He was fresh out of high school at the time, clad in his 1970s bell bottoms.
Cobb remembers the sound of revved engines down State Street right outside the shop’s door. Now, it’s nothing but bikes, buses and pedestrians.
He remembers the smell of freshly baked pizza from the Pizza Hut and Rocky's next door. Now, it’s the scent of espresso beans from a Starbuck’s.
He remembers Badgers coaches and athletes walking through the doors. He remembers the pieces of Andy Griffith memorabilia customers gifted after hearing he was such a fan of the show.
Most of all, Cobb remembers the people behind the swivel chairs, the barbers he calls family.
He won’t leave those memories behind, but he does have to leave the store. Cobb said his landlord is looking to fill the shop with a new tenant.
“It's probably more if it’s a big company coming in, but it does seem like the mom and pop places are kind of getting pushed out a little,” Cobb said.
It wasn’t cutting hair that got Cobb to buy up the small space on the 600 block of State Street. In fact, Cobb said he’s getting tired of working with a razor. He said the group he works beside is like family to him.
“We'll see what happens if we can find another spot because these people mean the world to me here too, so I'm thinking of their interests too,” Cobb said.
Down State Street Wasie Amiri continues to run Sacred Feather. The hat store has been at its current location for about 30 years.
“The taxes are getting higher and higher. The rent is higher,” Amiri said, “So that's why some of these folks, it’s just a little bit hard for them to stay in business.”
Mary Carbine, with the Business Improvement District, said downtown businesses are constantly evolving to meet market and customer needs. In addition, she said with all of the construction going on downtown, commerce is in transition.
“We have great traditional businesses, reinvented businesses and new businesses, and I expect to see that continue,” Carbine said.
Carbine said there’s no definitive reason or pattern for businesses leaving State Street.
Cobb said he is looking for another location for the barber shop, but he’s not sure what the current space will be.