How Jordan Spieth’s latest haircut helps boost small businesses in SC | Opinion

Jordan Spieth eases into a Hilton Head Island barber chair and Paddy Myers asks if he’ll have the usual.

No, he won’t. He’ll have it cut a little tighter than last year.

The chair is in a Barbers of the Lowcountry mobile shop tucked behind the scenes at the RBC Heritage golf tournament, April 15-21 on Hilton Head Island.

Spieth is a fan favorite at the Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines, where he was the 2022 champion of the PGA Tour event scheduled to finish its 56th edition on Sunday.

David Lauderdale
David Lauderdale

The tournament touts its economic impact, saying it pumps more than $102 million into South Carolina’s economy annually. It is upheld by big business, like title sponsor Royal Bank of Canada with more than 100,000 employees worldwide. But it’s equally important to small businesses of the Lowcountry.

And that’s where Spieth steps into the picture.

And Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Colin Morikawa and other world famous golfers who take a few minutes from fighting for a piece of a $20 million purse to chill in a barber chair.

Those haircuts show us how small business rolls in the Lowcountry. Survival requires constant change and brainstorming, rolling over speed bumps, and help from family, clients and professionals.

For Barbers of the Lowcountry, the story starts in New Orleans, almost 40 years ago, when Rick Tramuta saw something that interested him about an opportunity on Hilton Head. He took the plunge and soon owned a barber shop. It grew in popularity and is now known as The Barber Shop in Bluffton.

Tramuta urged relatives to come from New Orleans and cousin Lou Nelson did.

After years together, Lou and his son Brent split off in 1997 to start their own business, Barbers of the Lowcountry, which is the one that provided haircuts to the PGA Tour players, their support staffs, and caddies Monday through Friday on site.

This mobile barber shop, operated by Barbers of the Lowcountry, was set up at the RBC Heritage golf tournament held April 15-21, 2024 on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
This mobile barber shop, operated by Barbers of the Lowcountry, was set up at the RBC Heritage golf tournament held April 15-21, 2024 on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

The Heritage Classic Foundation pays the small business to provide the service for free. Co-owner Brent Nelson said barbers in the two-chair mobile unit are paid in tips. “They’re very generous,” he said of the players. “My barbers do really well.”

The business started on Otter Hole Road, off the beaten path on Hilton Head. It now has three locations: Sheridan Park in Bluffton, Town Centre in Beaufort, and one in Pooler, Georgia.

Senior barber Paddy Myers, who manages the Bluffton shop, said, “These guys are traveling up to 35 weeks of the year and it’s hard for them get haircuts on their schedules. This is relaxed and it’s convenient. They appreciate it.”

Not many get the classic straight-razor shave the shops specialize in, but they do need haircuts.

“He was due,” Myers said of Spieth. And the Texan was surprised Myers remembered from last year how he got his hair cut.

To promote their business, the Nelsons started doing haircuts at local festivals. It was well received, but a hassle to set up a tent and lug around a 1918 barber chair that weighed 600 pounds, Nelson said.

From that came the trailer idea. It was designed and built by James McGrath of McGrath Custom Hardwoods and Tiny Homes of Hilton Head, a veteran-owned and operated local business.

A client asked them to bring it to Belfair in Bluffton when the residential community hosted the PGA Professional Championship in 2019. And there, Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer said they ought to take it to the Heritage. That finally happened last year.

Along the way, it took a change in state law for them to be able to charge for haircuts in a barber shop on wheels.

Nelson said that at one point they began to see the barber shop as a business, not just a job of cutting hair. They added a barber school, began to sell high-end products, and hired a business coach. They offer beer, wine, sodas, water and coffee.

He said businesses that make it understand the needs and wants of customers, and make them feel that they’re not just a number.

Even if you only see them once a year, like Jordan Spieth.

David Lauderdale may be reached at .