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Some years ago Doug Shaffer was in a quandary. A sports-addicted hairstylist and half owner of a chain of salons in Indiana, Shaffer was beholden to his business partner. But he longed to run his own place, be his own boss, survive or fail on his own tonsorial talents. "I wanted my own shop," he says, "but I didn't want to be one of those old fuddy-duddy barbers like Floyd of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. Then—boom!—one day it hit me." He would merge his mania for sports with his scissor smarts and go out on his own.
Today, you need an appointment to get your ears lowered at Doug's Sports Cut in Goshen, Ind. The shop is four doors down from Maples Family Dining restaurant on Route 33, if you're coming from Elkhart. But you don't need an appointment if you're in the market for sports memorabilia—posters, collectors' cards, 50-year-old baseball mitts—or if you want to play a quick game of H-O-R-S-E, or sit in the "dugout" and talk sports with Doug. Do watch your step, though. "Customers tend to trip on the bases and the rubber on the pitcher's mound," says Shaffer. "I've thought about taking them out, but the place wouldn't be the same."
Mayberry's Floyd would have no idea what to make of this place. The Sports Cut resembles a barbershop less than it does a field house. The shop's floor features scaled-down football and baseball fields, plus a tiny basketball court complete with parquet flooring, in honor of a certain native Hoosier now plying his trade in Boston Garden. The barber's chair rests squarely atop home plate. In fact, as he whisks snipped locks from the napes of his customers' necks, Shaffer evokes the image of a baseball umpire dusting the plate.
Shaffer charges $7 a cut for those under 14, $8 for everyone else. He doesn't like to say how much of his income is derived from haircuts and how much from deals he cuts—selling and trading cards and memorabilia—but he is definitely onto something. Witness the arrival of the shaggy Anglemyer brothers, Kelly and Barry, on a recent Thursday afternoon. Because he is, at 11, two years older than Kelly, Barry is first in the chair, and wastes no time getting down to business.
"I want it spiked like the Boz, with two laser lines on each side. And do you have any '87 Ozzie Smiths in stock?" Shaffer says he will check. Barry is the shortstop on his Little League team and, to hear him tell it, a good one: "The only thing I can't do like Ozzie is a backflip on the field.
"All right! You got the rim fixed!" says Kelly, who has found the court's diminutive basketball. After having the rim re-welded four times in four months, Shaffer has posted a sign: ABSOLUTELY NO SLAM-DUNKING. Kelly contents himself with jacking up three-pointers from shallow right centerfield. The nine-year-old has his own business agenda. "How much is Andre Dawson's rookie card?" he asks Shaffer. It is $33. "Daaaaad," says Kelly in a plaintive voice. "Can you buy me that card?" As he reads The Elkhart Truth in the dugout, Garry Anglemyer does not dignify the question with a response.
Card sales are unpredictable. "Some days you can make five dollars on 'em, some days $500. One day," says Shaffer, his eyes taking on a certain gleam, "I had a whole baseball-card club in here—40 kids, some of them with $40 in their pockets." He gestured at several glass showcases. "I've got every kind of card here—baseball, football, basketball. I've got hockey cards, and I'm going to get [motor] racing cards in here. All cards are collectibles. There are no bad cards."
Should, horror of horrors, the card market dry up, and Shaffer lose his touch with the scissors, he could make an effortless transition to playground monitor. Half a dozen times a day he scolds freshly shorn young clients who insist on running amok through the shop with their lollipops in their mouths. For each such transgressor he has this stock story: "Once I had a little boy who ran around like that with a sucker, and he fell and the stick went into the roof of his mouth."
One's mind need never stray from games at Doug's Sports Cut. Customers can watch the progress of their trims in an enormous mirror designed to look like a baseball, which is official-looking down to the direction of its engraved seams. On the walls are: a Chicago Bears pennant-clock; an ancient Notre Dame varsity blanket; and a handsome, hand-stitched WELCOME HOME, BROOKLYN DODGERS, WORLD CHAMPIONS banner. Directly behind home plate hangs a framed front-page story from the Sept. 12, 1985, Cincinnati Enquirer. The headline reads 4,192, referring to Pete Rose's Ty Cobb-record-breaking hit. What he admired most about Rose, says Shaffer, was his overachieving style of play. "He probably didn't have any more talent than the next guy walking down the street," says Shaffer. "He just wanted it so badly."
Shaffer is a headfirst-slide kind of guy himself. Raised in nearby Elkhart, the self-proclaimed recreational vehicle capital of the world, he designed plumbing systems for RVs for a year after high school. Talk about lousy jobs. "I hated it," he says. He decided he would cut hair for a living, and set out for a barber college in Nashville, "but I got tired of driving." After pulling off I-65 near Louisville, Shaffer phoned directory information. Were there any barber colleges in the area? "Long story short," he says, "I ended up at the Kentucky College of Barbering and Hairstyling."