While the past three years of unparalleled downtown redevelopment has ushered in a new era for the city of Kent, some of the last vestiges of the old Kent, so familiar for generations, have slowly faded away.
When Emory’s Barbershop on South Water Street closed in the summer of 2011, it was among Kent’s oldest continuously operating business establishments, dating from the first decade of the 20th century. Most of the barbershop’s early Water Street neighbors, such at Kline’s Market, Thompson’s and Donaghy’s drug stores, Hahn’s Bakery, Strimple Insurance, Butcher Boy and The City Bank had long passed from the downtown scene when, at age 87, Emory Vance was forced by declining health to retire and close the venerable shop — which still boasted a set of 1919 Koken barber chairs, pedestal sinks and large beveled mirrors.
Although Vance passed away in April and Emory’s has been shuttered for more than a year now, the shop’s legacy and the barber’s memory will live on in downtown Kent as the Vance family has indefinitely “loaned” one of the remaining barber chairs to Jason Manion and Jason Fabick of Jason’s Barbershop, which recently moved from its former Acorn Alley location to a new storefront in Acorn Alley II. Alongside a plaque and photo of Vance, the chair in which for nearly a century generations of customers sat for a haircut and a friendly conversation is back in business.
A fixture in downtown Kent for 50 years, Vance himself donated one of the four chairs along with a variety of other artifacts to the Kent Historical Society, which has created a display at its Main Street museum.
According to Rick Vance, Emory's eldest son, his father would be delighted that one of his chairs is still being used only a block away from its former location and that perhaps some of his old customers will rest in it once again.
"Many in Kent had their first haircut in that chair in my dad's shop, and they would bring their sons, and grandsons in for their first haircuts," Vance said. "Now that tradition can go on for generations to come."
A formal dedication of the chair to Jasons is slated for 9 a.m. Saturday, October 20. Customers of Emory’s are invited to join Vance family members as a part of the old Kent is welcomed to the new Kent.