50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 18th Ward's Cody Gipson, a barber who's benefited from a changing neighborhood

June 26, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Cody Gipson in his 79th Street barber shop.

For Cody Gipson, racial changes on the city’s Southwest Side were good for business.

 

“When I moved over here it was 95 percent white. Now, it’s 95 percent black. It changed, but over a gradual period of time. It wasn’t a great change overnight.”

Gipson is a barber. In fact, he’s a barber shop owner.

“[The change] was good because I have a black business and I don’t cut that many white people’s hair, Caucasian hair. And at that point more Afro Americans moved in. It was good for me as far as business.”

Gipson likes his neighborhood, known as Wrightwood, a lot. Unprompted, he gives it a score an Olympian would be proud of.

 

“I would say it’s, on average of 1 to 10, I would give it a 9,” he laughs. “That’s pretty good, isn’t it?”

“We have had some lovely times over here. Beautiful people, middle class,” Gipson says. “It’s clean, even our alleys are clean and well-lit.”

Oh, but those alleys also bring about Gipson’s sole gripe about the neighborhood.

“The alleys could be swept a little bit more when the city come through,” he says.

A little overly focused on the alleys? Well, it’s because he sees them all the time. Gipson parks out back of his 79th Street shop, and he lives upstairs.

“I can’t be late [to work],” he says. “They’ll knock on the door and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to work.”

Gipson’s businesses – he owns a shop here and another in the Marquette Park neighborhood – are called Headhunter Barber & Beauty. He’s been in the business a long time.

 

“I guess every 10 – and I’ve been in the business about 40 years – every 10 years we’ll see some type of a [style] change,” Gipson says. “You got to see it coming. You got to stay on top of it. You got to, you know, know how to do it. But the youngsters that come in, they’ll tell you what they want. And they just about will tell you almost how to cut it.”

Gipson chuckles, and you know he’s met his share of demanding Chicagoans. As we chat, it’s clear that Gipson is not, himself, all that demanding. Everyone – even the city’s politicians – get the benefit of the doubt.

“I think [Mayor Rahm Emanuel is] doing good,” he says. “He have to get his thing in order, the same as the president has to get his agenda in. And I think the second time around for both of them would be great.”

Gipson says he sees Emanuel working with people to address crime in the city. But, locally, he says, that’s not a big concern.

“There’s crime all over this city,” Gipson says. “So far, this neighborhood’s been blessed.”