Cole’s is a piece of history

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Cole’s Hair Cuts holds a piece of history as Tampa International Airport’s longest standing concession.

The barbershop came to the airport in 1971 with the opening of the main terminal.

It’s one of five barber/beauty shops in Tampa owned by the Cole family.

Robert Cole, now in his late 80s, opened the airport location at the urging of Dick Greco, former Tampa mayor and member of the Aviation Authority board.

“When spaces were being rented out in the airport, I knew Cole’s shop would be a perfect addition,” Greco said. “I went to Cole personally and asked him if he would open his barber shop there.”

At the time, less than a decade after passage of federal civil rights legislation, Greco was making a concerted effort to get more African-Americans involved in civic life.

Robert’s grandson, Todd Cole, who now works as general manager of the airport location, said the family welcomed the chance to operate in the new terminal.

“It was a great opportunity to serve a diverse population. Prior to that we were serving primarily African-Americans,” Todd Cole said, noting that the entire family was proud of Robert’s new venture.

As the airport has evolved, so has Cole’s. A massage station was added seven years ago.

“It was clear there would be a good market for that because people often came in and asked for it,” Todd Cole said.

Cole’s now offers head-to-toe service that includes haircuts, massage and shoe shines. All customers receive quality service for a reasonable price: $5 for a shoe shine, about $20 for a haircut, and $40 for a 30-minute massage.

“Travelers return on a regular basis. We also have people that come from the city to the airport just for the services,” Robert Cole said. Airport employees also frequently patronize the shop.

Cole said he decided to become a barber after watching his father and grandfather manage their own shops. The profession is still in the family.

“I’ve worked in the shop, my two of my sons have worked in the shop, and my grandson has worked in the shop,” Cole said.

 

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