Fayette County

Lexington barber retires after 5 decades at downtown shop

Gerald Psimer watched Lonnie Cope cut his hair one last time. Cope is retiring after 50 years.
Gerald Psimer watched Lonnie Cope cut his hair one last time. Cope is retiring after 50 years. Herald-Leader

From the flattop to the Farrah Fawcett layer and the flip, Lonnie Cope has cut all styles in more than 50 years of cutting Kentucky hair.

Cope, 70, started when he was 15 in Jackson County, charging a quarter a head.

But most of his professional life has been spent in downtown Lexington, where he has long had a salon, Lonnie's Professional Hair, on Martin Luther King Boulevard, formerly Walnut Street.

He retired Friday after one last go at the hair of his first client in the Lexington shop — Gerald Psimer. Cope first cut Psimer's hair in August 1962.

Psimer thought it was a burr cut.

Cope knew better.

"Nah, it was a flattop," he said.

As word of the retirement of the downtown Lexington institution spread, old customers started scheduling appointments to catch Cope on the way out.

"The first ones will be the last ones," he said.

Prices have changed — $20.50 for a men's cut and style, and $21.50 for women.

Cope will still see some customers at his home in Bourbon County; he said he also looks forward to spending more time at his Lake Cumberland home.

The shop on MLK will continue under Ford Halcomb, a longtime barber and stylist in the 800-square-foot shop. Halcomb has worked with Cope for nearly four decades.

Cope said he liked cutting flattops, and he cut them a bit longer than others, which gave him an edge in the 1960s. Some styles, such as the Fawcett look and the shag, have evolved over the years but still are requested, albeit under more current names.

Women's styles that have volume and layers and give the illusion of having more hair, while being easy to care for and style, are always popular, Cope said.

Cope said he once took a makeup course to better analyze how to cut to face shape, and he is particularly proud of having learned the secrets of the long-popular Fawcett cut from a hairdresser who had worked on Fawcett herself.

Some styles, such as lamb-chop sideburns and curly cloud-like hair on men, were more fleeting. Cope himself has had a half-dozen hair styles over the years.

Cope also has developed a specialty in men's hair replacement, and he will continue seeing some of those clients.

"My clients have been with me so long they don't even have to tell me what they want," Cope said.

Psimer didn't have to give Cope any instructions at all.

"I just sit down and he cuts it," Psimer said. "He knows what to do."