Jon Love is a barber. At 42, he hustled and saved and sweated to open his own business, Love Shack Barber & Styling, just a couple of weeks ago in the Winthrop Commons shopping plaza.
His words come out with a chuckle because this guy is not self-conscious in the least: “I’m standing on my own two feet in business.”
Jon Love has no feet, but he sure has guts.
Love’s legs were amputated below the knee in 2003 because of a blood disorder. The former basketball player, a 6-foot-4 barber and jock, went from husband and father to fighting for his life in a hospital bed with nothing below the calf.
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He’s now 6-foot-2.
Love’s answer to all that, so many years later, is that he is “taking control of my own life.”
Control means going back to cutting hair, what he did before his amputations and before the prostheses. But this time with a huge investment, a gamble to be his own boss and make his way in the business world – whether he has two feet or no feet.
To cut hair, Love, like all barbers, has to “stand on my feet all day.” He then lifts a pant leg to show he has none. Still, he is an American Dream in reality because Love is not waiting for anybody anymore in his life.
After getting his new legs, he learned how to walk again, then worked for years in clinical drug trials until the economy went into the tank. He then headed to Winthrop University, where he earned a degree in political science among students a generation younger.
Hundreds of applications later, no job had materialized. But Love wanted to be productive, so he went back to what he loved – the barber chair.
Love spent three months converting a store into a barber shop, doing most of the work himself.
“I don’t want sympathy,” Love said. “I want customers.”
Love and his family – wife Libby, daughter Sydney and son Gavin – are so open about his legs that nobody even thinks twice about it anymore. Libby calls the way Jon walks the “Jon Love Swagger.”
“His nickname among some people we know is Hoppy John,” said Libby. “This is who he is.”
Love’s 12-year-old daughter, Sydney, took him to school for show and tell.
“He’s just my dad,” she said, as only a girl can say about a dad who is not an embarrassment because of his legs, but because he is a dad – period.
Yet because this is a business, a barbershop, the only way to make it is to find customers and be good at cutting hair. John cuts only men’s hair. The women in the shop handle the female clients. Haircuts are between $13 and $17.
“Jon is a great barber,” said Susan Averitt, another barber and stylist who works at the shop along with two others. “I’ve known him 20 years, since the days we worked together before he lost his legs.
“What is important is, he is good.”
The spot was chosen because it is close to Winthrop – just across Cherry Road, sandwiched between a busy supermarket and dollar store.
The shop opened Aug. 1 with one customer. The days since have seen an increase, in yes, what is called in the business world “foot traffic.”
Love could have moaned about the rotten draw he received in life. But he’s not complaining. He is hustling to make an American success story in his own business.
Politicians of either party whose hardest job is cashing donation checks talk non-stop about Americans standing on their own two feet and making this country even greater.
Jon Love doesn’t need any politician to tell him to try – and he doesn’t even have any feet.
See for yourself
Love Shack Barber & Styling is located at the Winthrop Commons shopping center on Cherry Road in Rock Hill. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday though Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For information, call the shop at 803-366-5500.