For half a century, Alton “Johnny” Johnson has done more than cut hair on Rock Hill’s Saluda Street. He has stayed right there in the same spot, proud of his place and his neighbors and his city right down the street from where he was raised.
The street and neighborhood have changed many times, but Johnny’s seemingly never changes.
The barber pole outside his business still spins.
His place is a community institution. And so is Johnny. He is less than 5 feet tall but looms a giant at his shop. He loves it – and the neighborhood loves him.
Then sometime Wednesday morning before dawn, criminals stole his air conditioner.
The outside unit, heavy and big, was apparently grabbed by some villain or crew that wanted the copper inside, a police report says.
They took a lot more than an air conditioner.
They stole from somebody who never turned his back on the community around him. And now even with insurance, a new unit cost Johnson $1,000.
For haircuts at $13 a throw, the thief took a lot of income from a guy who has spent a lifetime on his feet earning money through hard work and good customer service.
“I figure it had to be at least two of them – it was heavy,” Johnson said. “I hope the police find it.”
The ladies who work as stylists and barbers at Johnny’s Barber Shop – Rhonda McManus and Christine Muller – were upset, too. The customers were upset. Some of them have been coming to Johnny’s their whole lives. The barber who runs Platinum Cuts barbershop across the street, Adrian “Ace” McCrorey, was upset.
“That’s just plain wrong,” said McCrorey of the theft.
Detectives were assigned the case and Johnson gave them as much identification as he had. A longtime customer for haircuts and owner of a heating and air business, Sonny Adkins, sent his guys right over to put in a new unit so that Johnny’s could stay open without missing a beat.
“They steal these units, they cost thousands of dollars, and they get maybe 20 dollars worth of copper,” Adkins said. “Johnny and I, we been buddies a long time. This is terrible. Somebody did him a wrong turn here.”
Yet Johnson said that he has no plans to leave his spot. even if somebody on a block where he has been a good neighbor stole from him. At age 71, Johnny Johnson is not ready to retire. Brazen thieves will not push him away from his barber chair and into a rocking chair anytime soon.
“This is where I have been and this is where I am staying,” Johnson said. “Friday and Saturday are coming up. Those are busy days. I have to work.”