Wiveliscombe barber Claire Crocker is celebrating a year of success after moving her business from a pub games room to a permanent shop.

Ms Crocker trained as a barber when the pandemic hit, before taking up work in Wellington at the Barber Shack on Fore Street.

In April 2022, she took to offering a barbering service from the Bear Inn, which the Wellington Weekly then praised as 'A cut above.'

Having a haircut at a pub would have been a far more common sight in the 1950's - and could involve a 'shandy wash', where the barber would clean his client's hair with beer.

Although Ms Crocker is not known to have poured beer over anyones heads, her service proved popular all the same. Before long it became clear she would need a new premises, as with the pub barbers of old, customers enjoyed the same convenience.

Ms Crocker got wind that a property in the square was to be vacated and snapped up a permanent home for her business, Black Bear Barbers. The building had been home to a barbershop decades ago, when it was known as 'Mr Quiggley's.'

A year on from taking on the town centre shop, a move which Ms Crocker said was a 'gamble', Black Bear Barbers is busier than ever, with Ms Crocker celebrating success as the shop marked its first birthday. She said:

"I knew that Wivey needed a decent barbers but I didn’t think it was going to be like this. You can never tell in a town like Wivey what it’s going to be like, some things work some things don’t and this has worked incredibly well. 

Although Ms Crocker continues to accommodate for walk-ins, the shop has proved so popular that customers would be well advised to book in advance. That popularity registers across all age groups, from Kingsmead students to those who remember the days of Mr Quiggley. Ms Crocker said:

"We cut everybody’s hair, all different ages, a lot of people that live in Wivey and haven’t been going to the barbers since Covid. Now they’re coming back out to the barbers instead of having their wives cut their hair at home. “Mainly people were going to Taunton before, it’s a lot easier for people to come here straight after school or after work."

Prior to making the leap, Ms Crocker had never owned her own business. But, wanting to be closer to home for her children, she took the chance. That decision, she said, was the best she'd ever made:

"I worked in Wellington at the Barber Shack before starting my own business. But I’ve got four kids and my husband works in Bristol so I needed to be closer to home. I wanted to work in my home town. 

“It was 100 per cent a gamble to do this. I wasn’t sure because you just never know. But a lot of people have supported me since day one. It was scary to make the decision, it was nerve wracking, I’m 40 years old, and had never ran a business before. 

“I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it was probably the best decision I ever made. People come in saying ‘Wivey needed a barbers for a long time’ and that we’ve done a good job."

The business also created a new local job, with Ms Crocker taking on Kingsmead leaver Ethan who studied barbering at Bridgwater and Taunton College. But with Ethan now set to return to college and continue his studies, Ms Crocker is on the look out for a new barber to take up a chair.

The business is looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays - with Ms Crocker set to continue with the work she loves: "I absolutely love my work , meeting all these new people – it’s a funny place Wivey because it seems like a small town and you think that you know everybody here. It wasn’t until I opened this shop that I realised I knew hardly anyone."