For 60 years, Goodwin Spencer Street Barbershop has been a historic pillar in the North Omaha Community. Although the cursive lettering on the window advertises men’s grooming services, what patrons find inside is much more than that.
It is difficult to talk about the barbershop without first describing the living source of its culture that is its founder, Daniel M. Godwin Sr. Dan (as he is commonly referred to) was born in raised in Omaha, Nebraska during the height of the Great Depression and racial segregation. At the age of seventeen, he dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Navy. Four years later, he returned to Omaha, completed high school at age 21, and earned his barber’s license. For a short time, Dan worked in his older brother’s barbershop, but in 1955 he opened Goodwin Spencer Street Barbershop.
Traditionally, African American barbershops have been social, political, and educational hubs within the community; Goodwin Spencer Street Barbershop is no different. Regular customers can expect to walk in on passionate conversations regarding topics ranging from who would win the next boxing match to more serious matters such as Civil Rights for African Americans. At one point in time, “the shop”, was the campaign site for Senator (and part-time barber) Ernie Chambers. In 1966, a sensitive debate about segregation in Omaha, Nebraska was captured on the Academy Award nominated documentary A Time for Burning.
Today, the same spirit is alive at Goodwin Spencer Street Barbershop. Even at the age of 85, Dan Goodwin Sr. still comes into work ready to cut hair and have a good time like always. Many customers have been coming to Dan for decades. Even so, positive change is on the horizon for the shop. In 2015, Dan Goodwin Sr. sold the barbershop to his son Dan Goodwin Jr. and his wife LaVonya. The couple acquired the shop with the intention to revitalize the barbershop while Dan Goodwin Sr. is still living. Some renovation has already begun, but extensive remodeling of the exterior and added amenities are underway. But regardless of the physical changes to the image of the barbershop one thing is for certain; the quality of care and the sense of community will always remain.