90-year-old South Bend barber shop owner shares why she's still working

By  | 

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - She's a legend in South Bend who's been cutting hair for more than five decades.

Adeline Jones is turning 90 years old on Friday, Sept. 20, and has no plans on slowing down.

Many of her customers come for the convenience.

"It's so nice to get in. I like to come a lot of times at 7 in the morning, be her first customer," Carlos Pruitt said.

And many more stay for the conversation.

"Your sister going to drive?" Jones asked Pruitt over the monotonous hum of her electric hair clippers.

"Probably," he replied.

"Probably? I don't believe you," she said.

The barber shop is a staple in the black community, and Jones makes you feel like family when you're here.

"Ms. Adeline is a wonderful person," customer Ernest Dixon said.

Dixon has sat in Jones's chair for more than 25 years.

"She's just good company to be around. You come up in here and she makes you feel welcome, and you can also get you a couple cookies, a hot dog or something. It's real nice. Ms. Adeline is a real nice person," Dixon said.

And she's a South Bend gem.

"I think the whole community loves Ms. Adeline," Dixon continued. "I think the community protects Ms. Adeline."

At almost 90 years old, some wonder why -- and how -- she's still in the business of doing hair. But her answer is simple.

"I do what I enjoy doing, talking to you," Jones told Pruitt, who's been going to her since childhood, nearly 40 years.

"I don't want to wash dishes. I don't want to mop the floor," Jones explained.

"What do you want to do?" asked 16 News Now's Kim Shine.

"Cut his hair off. And others," she replied.

They all laugh.

Jones is the owner of Wigfall Barber Shop on the city's west side.

"Oh, I love it. I don't have any problems with it. I'm here every day," she said.

She enrolled in barber school in Gary in 1963 and started professionally a year later. She's had other shops and other partners, but she's been at the corner of Washington and Elm streets since 1976.

"Boy, we went from Afros to Jheri curls, now back to a different haircut. It's more of a taper on the sides and leave the top for the young people. The adults are still wearing their regular haircuts," she said.

In line with the varying hairstyles, this neighborhood also looks different.
What Jones recalls as a bustling business district has turned mostly residential.

"Oh, it was busy. You had a young men recreation. You had the adult recreation. Then you had 24-hour grocery store," she said.

Of course, the landscape has changed, but time has been kind to Jones. She even said some of her late sisters lived past 90.

And as she reflects, she stays grateful to still do what she loves and has no plans on stopping.

"Well, I love people," she said. "And I'm not perfect. And I know other people are not perfect either. So we have to adjust to whatever might be different with that person, doesn't mean it's wrong. It's just not the way you do things, not the way you think.

"I'm proud to be a business owner but I think that anybody that wanted to could be one. If you treat people like you want to be treated, you'll be able to stay in business."

Jones also encourages other aspiring barbers or business owners to tackle their dreams.

A couple of fun facts about Wigfall Barber Shop: Customers can also get their eyebrows done or get facials, and the place used to double as a restaurant drive-thru many years ago.