Wedged in a little slice between the railroad tracks and Chatham Street is Newport’s only barbershop.
It’s simply called The Barber Shop.
Looking at the little whitewashed building from the street one would never figure it to be the museum that it is.
"You don’t know what you’re getting into until you walk in and then it’s almost overwhelming," said owner Marty Shirley.
The walls are covered with antiquated knick-knacks of every variety.
Retired fishing rods and lures, swords, and rusty hand tools share space with toy tractors, cases of old bottles and even album covers from The Beatles.
Marty’s old military school uniform hangs on a hook from a door.
"It still fits too," Shirley said in jest.
The 58-year-old Greenville native was drawn to Newport in 1996 by a local girl.
"This is my little Mayberry of the east," he said.
He’s right to say that, since over on the wall is a respectable collection of memorabilia from "The Andy Griffith Show," including posters, postcards, recordings from Griffith and Jim Neighbors, aka Gomer. There’s even an old 45 rpm single of Griffith’s famous routine "What It Was Was Football" and an autographed picture of the late film and television star.
"I loved Mayberry before and I didn’t have the whole collection, but I had most of it," he said. "So I started putting up Mayberry memorabilia and people would go to Mt Airy to visit and bring me something back so the collection has grown tenfold from when I started off."
The collection started with Shirley’s own stuff then others threw theirs in with it.
"Well, it’s just with my little personal collection, stuff that my wife wouldn’t let me have at home, so I found places to sit it around in here and people just started donating," Shirley said. "A lot of these older guys have things that their family don’t like or don’t want to deal with when something happens to them and they’re afraid that they will be thrown away or garage sold, so they bring it here and find it a home."
It was those same customers and friends who helped Shirley with another collection.
"They decided I needed a hat collection, so I went along with it," he said. "They decided I needed a license tag collection, so I went along with it. And it just keeps growing and growing. If it wasn’t for these windows, I’d have a lot of space."
The hats hang from one corner to the other and across the ceiling. They’re from everywhere.
The license plates take up most of the back wall. They’re from Hawaii to Alaska, and California to New York. He has local ones too. There’s one from 1974 from Bath that says "Oldest Town in the State," and then the 1981 plate from Newport that proclaims "Town with Old Fashioned Courtesy."
Shirley walks the walk when it comes to Newport’s courtesy, honoring all of his oldest customers over the age of 90 with haircuts at no charge.
He greeted one of those old customers at the door last week.
Gardner Martin Kelley has been coming to Shirley for a haircut since he was 95.
"I’m 99 years old. In two months I’ll be 100," said Kelley, a former sea captain. "Marty’s been my friend ever since I started coming here. He keeps me looking good for the ladies. I think he’s a wonderful man."
Shirley’s praise doesn’t stop there.
Randy Hill, of Greenville, had been waiting for his haircut for about half an hour but didn’t mind.
"It’s a wait every time you come in," Hill said. "I’ve been coming to Marty for 15 or 20 years. His dad cut it before when they were down at Bath. I lost him and found him down here and so I’ve been coming down ever since he’s been here. He’s a friend and he cuts a good head of hair."
Joe Buie, of Harkers Island, agreed.
"Well, I’ve had haircuts all over North Carolina and Marty does the best job of anybody I’ve had cut my hair, and besides that, my girlfriend loves it when he cuts it and she defies me to go anywhere else," Buie said.
Besides, if you’re going to have to wait a few minutes, you might as well have something to look at.
"That helps too," Buie said. "Marty’s got a great place. Very seldom will you go into a barber shop that has any kind of atmosphere like right in this place. It’s just amazing. The only thing I can say is he’s been doing something besides cutting hair. He’s been collecting."
Word has gotten out about Shirley’s place, all the way to reality television.
Recently, a television crew hired Shirley and The Barber Shop to do some "on location" footage.
"They were looking for a barber shop scene and someone sent pictures by phone and they said this looked just right," Shirley said.
The Hollywood types swooped in and closed him down for a day, put up lights, rearranged a little bit and said "Action!"
Shirley hired an old barber friend to work at the shop’s rarely used second chair and Shirley pretended to cut the star’s hair.
"All I had to do was cut the boy’s hair that was in the show," Shirley said. "I was all wired up with microphones and everything. It was kind of neat."
Hearing of it, his customers wanted to know so they could tune in, but Shirley said the crew couldn’t say the name of the show.
So everyone should stay tuned for a cameo appearance by Marty and his Little Mayberry of the East barbershop.