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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lane Ruiz looks back on 34 years at an Annandale barber shop

Lane Ruiz takes a break between haircuts.
Annandale has changed a lot over the past 34 years—but a few things have remained pretty much the same. Parliament Cleaners and Sal’s Shoe Repair had already been decades old in 1980 and are still up and running. 

Another Annandale old-timer, barber Lane Ruiz, has been at the Little River Barber Shop on Little River Turnpike since 1980.

Ruiz remembers other Annandale businesses, now closed, that were popular back in the day, including the Black Orchid restaurant and the G.C. Murphy variety store in the same strip mall on Little River Turnpike. After Murphy’s closed, that spot was occupied by McCrory’s, then a Korean department store. [Advance Auto Parts will open in the empty space that used to house Blockbuster.]

Also once popular and now long gone are the Spaghetti Mill on Little River Turnpike across from Giant, and the Two Chefs, which was later replaced by Fuddruckers, Ruiz recalls. A large Walgreens drug store is under construction on that site.

Also since Ruiz started working here, he says, “Annandale has gotten about 20 times more diverse.” When he moved here from Panama in 1960 when he was 8 years old, newcomers tried harder to adjust, he says. The new generation of immigrants are “good hardworking people, but it seems harder for them to fit in,” he says.

Ruiz grew up in Arlington and graduated from Washington Lee High School in 1971. He still lives in Arlington. He never married or had children but has had several long-time girlfriends.

The Little River Barber Shop opened in 1969, and Ruiz is the last barber from the old days. He still has some customers who’ve been coming to him for haircuts for the past 10 or 20 years; other longtime customers have passed away or moved. “It used to be a place where people liked to hang out and talk about sports or politics. We don’t get that any more. I miss that,” he says.

Hairstyles have also gotten a lot shorter since he started, Ruiz says. They’re also more expensive, but still a great deal: When he started, a man’s haircut at the Little River Barber Shop was $8.50.  Now it’s $12. A woman’s haircut is $15.

Ruiz is thinking about retiring next year and moving back to Panama and getting a job as a translator or in the tourist industry—“not cutting hair,” he says. After doing well over 100,000 haircuts—at the rate of 12 a day, sometimes as many as 18, five days a week for 34 years—he’s ready to try something new.


  1. Lane is the Man!!! One of the most honest, humble individuals you could ever meet. If it wasn't for the fact I was going bald in my early 20's, I would still have him cut my hair.


  2. The name of that restaurant that used to be where the new Walgreens is going up was Three Chefs not Two Chefs. Used to love going there as a kid. Their specialty (at least as far as I was concerned) was some kind of giant apple pancake. Sad that it's now going to be such a boring, generic place. The only thing worse than another drug store would have been another bank.

  3. lee fletcher11/5/13, 8:09 PM

    i first met lane in 1968 at a basketball court at little rocky run playground. We became friends and he starting cutting my hair around 1980. i have always looked forward to my appointments and the chance to catch up and remember back at all the people, places and things we experienced over the years.I dont know who will cut my hair after he retires but i dont think my time in the chair will ever be as satisfying as the last thirty something years have been I am blessed to have known you and i wish you nothing but the best my friend