Barber cuts it close for friends
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
The pot brews pretty early at Ray’s house.
“I get up at 3:15 in the morning, fix my coffee and at 5:15 I’m in here, cutting hair. I look forward to it. I get to visit with my friends every day.”
The men who patronize Ray’s Barber Shop at 2120 Texas Avenue in Bridge City aren’t customers. They’re Ray LeLeux’s family.
“I’ve been here so long, I’m on my fourth generation,” the 72-year-old barber said as he finished up a trim for James Riley.
“I cut his daddy’s hair, his hair, his son-in-law’s hair and now his grandkid’s hair,” Ray said.
Riley said he usually stops by Ray’s Barber Shop on his way to work, once every three weeks or so.
“Usually, I’m the first one here in the morning,” Riley said. “He opens at 5 and I’m usually here at 5:15. I’ve been a satisfied customer for probably 40 years.”
As Riley rises from the chair and checks out Ray’s handiwork in a mirror, he tells the barber:
“Looks good. You made me a movie star.”
Ray’s ready for the compliment.
“Send me a card from Hollywood,” he tells Riley.
LeLeux is a native of Kaplan, Louisiana, southwest of Lafayette. He came to Bridge City because his brother and sister lived here first.
After graduating from Beaumont’s Liberty Barbers College, he has been a barber in Bridge City for 47 years, 45 at the same location on Texas Avenue.
He and wife Linda were married “50 years, 6 months and 13 days,” Ray said, before she died in 2015. The couple had no children.
“My wife and I did a lot of cruises,” he said. “It was so much fun, we’d come back from one and she’d get on the computer, trying to find another cruise.
“We’d sit on the porch and discuss the memories we’d be making, so when one of us was gone, we’d have the memories we were making.”
LeLeux helped care for his sixter, Viola Watson, before she passed away recently.
Starting his barbering career in 1970 was a semi-questionable decision, seeing as how long hair was the trend and barbers were going out of vogue.
But Ray adapted.
“I did shampoos, razor cuts and blow dry,” he said. “Then, in the 80s, kids got into getting their football numbers engraved in their hair. Or a five-point star because they made the all-star team in baseball.
“Some of them wanted a Nike swoosh.”
Ray was happy to obilige.
“One reason people don’t want to be barbers is we don’t have pensions and benefits,” he said. “Kids today, those that want to work, they want a job with beneifts.
“Being a barber, you’ve got no benefits. You have to make it through the door with customers.”
LeLeux never had a shortage of customers.
“I notice I don’t have to tell him how to cut my hair,” longtime customer Jeff Smith said. “You don’t get that any more.”
His early hours work for him.
“I like getting up early and coming to work,” LeLeux said. “The working man’s at work during the day, so he’s got to come in early. And the guy who works nights, he’s got to come in early.
“About the time I get through with the working man, the retirees come in.”
LeLeux is open only Tuesdays through Thursdays.
“That’s all the body can handle,” he said.
“I don’t take a lunch hour, and at 4 p.m., I turn the shade and lock the door.
“I put in about 36 hours in three days. This is all the old man can handle.”
But he has no plans to change the routine.
“People always ask me when I’ll retire. I don’t want to retire,” LeLeux said.
“I get to visit with the friends I’ve had for years, and I get paid for it.”