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Employee transplants keep family of barbers together

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For 16 years, Tony LaMarca, at the LaMarca Barbershop in Forest Park, worked alone, and by appointment only. That all changed two weeks ago, after Rex Cut and Style, a shop on Highway 42 in Rex, closed its doors for good.

The barbershop in Rex had been open at the same location for 27 years prior to the property being sold to another business toward the end of last month. At one time, Bill Durden -- the store's owner -- also owned and operated the barbershops at Fort McPherson, Fort Gillem, and Dobbins Air Force Base.

Rex Cut and Style, where LaMarca got his start as a barber, was the last remaining Durden family-operated barbershop in the metro Atlanta area. The more than 20-year working relationship shared by the employees of Rex Cut and Style was in danger of ending, until Durden approached his former employee, LaMarca, with an interesting proposition -- an employee transplant.

The result of the transplant is that LaMarca's Barbershop at 979 Forest Parkway in Forest Park is now a full-time barbershop, with a full-time staff.

"When that shop closed, we agreed to bring them all over here," said LaMarca. "I've been working by myself for years ... now it's a full staff. It was an exciting place before, but now it's booming in here. On the weekends, we're rocking and rolling."

Dianne Durden, Bill Durden's daughter and the former manager of Rex Cut and Style, came to LaMarca's Barbershop two weeks ago after the closure of her store. While losing the last Durden barbershop was "traumatic," being able to keep her employees together has helped ease the transition, she said.

"We're very happy here," said Durden. "We're like a family ... it makes us all feel good," to stay together. She compared the transfer of employees to "adopting a family of orphans."

"I feel like I am the oldest orphan and I don't want my brothers and sisters being broken up," Durden said. Several of the barbers from the Rex store were worried that the move would hurt their clientele, said Debbie Bivens, one of LaMarca's new barbers. However, "we've found that they like the shop and don't mind the drive," Bivens said.

LaMarca said the combination of the two shops is working in everybody's favor. The land line number of the Rex store was routed to a cell phone that picks up in LaMarca's store in Forest Park, so the shop has been able to pick up more clientele as well as walk-ins, he said.

"It's refreshing ... it's exciting," said LaMarca. "Everybody from the other shops brought their own clientele, so its been a lot busier."

David DeSantis, an emergency planning specialist at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control living in Rex, followed his barber of 12 years to LaMarca's store in Forest Park.

"It's really hard to find a good barbershop," said DeSantis. "It's an extra five minutes, but it's definitely worth the drive."