By Casey Peacock: Freedom Newspapers
Wendell Kelly gives his last haircut at Sands Barber Shop in Portales after a career spanning 50 years.
An era came to an end as local longtime barber Wendell Kelly of Sands Barber Shop retired after 50 years of cutting hair.
For 30 years, he and his wife lived and worked in California, before moving back to Portales. For awhile in California, he owned a 10-chair shop.
“I wanted to get an occupation I could do forever,” Kelly said.
Kelly began working as a barber and found he enjoyed it. Barbering allowed him to earn a good living and support his family, he said.
“If I had to do it over, I probably would have done the same thing,” Kelly said.
Twenty-three years ago, Kelly purchased the Sands Barber Shop from Tommy Heflin and became a constant presence in the community.
“I’ve got to know almost everybody in town,” Kelly said.
An enjoyable part of the job for Kelly has been the children. He stated that they are so honest and sincere, telling you straight up what is on their minds, he said.
“If it wasn’t for the little kids, I wouldn’t have stayed in barbering,” Kelly said.
Working side by side with Kelly for the past 23 years has been Jay Ball. The two are always feeding off each other with their daily banter, said Denise Trujillo, who purchased the shop from Kelly.
“‘Wendell would always ask Jay, ‘Are you going to sit here all day?’” Trujillo said.
According to Ball, Kelly was always one to joke and tell stories, making everyone laugh.
“We had a lot of good laughs together. We had a lot of good times together,” Ball said.
Many customers are sad he is no longer working at the barber shop, Trujillo said.
“It’s going to be different and a culture shock to Portales now that Wendell is gone,” Trujillo said.
Generations of children received their first haircuts from Kelly over the years. Many of those children have grown up and would bring their children in, Kelly said.
“There’s no telling how many first haircuts I have given,” said Kelly.
It was Kelly who inspired Trujillo to enter the profession and become a barber. A Saturday spent working with Kelly at the barber shop allowed Trujillo to find the passion and excitement to finish her training and become a barber. Kelly was also responsible for giving her son his first haircut, Trujillo said.
“I always told Wendell I’m gonna grow up and be like you. I’m honored I got to work with him,” Trujillo said.