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Meet Lou Gambill: barber, baseball mentor

Lou Gambill owns the barber shop My Grandfather’s Place. He lives in Richmond Hill with his wife Linda and three sons: Taylor, 17, Brent, 16, and Blake, 10.

How long have you lived in Bryan County?

I’ve been here two years now. Prior to that, I lived in the Baltimore area where I ran a barber shop for 32 years. Before I owned it, my grandfather was a barber there for about 45 years. He passed away right after I got out of high school. When my grandfather ran the shop, it was called Lou’s Barber Shop. I’m named after him. When I took it over, I called it My Grandfather’s Place.

How did you wind up in this area?

My wife and I decided we wanted to come south. We knew we wanted to be about half an hour from the ocean, so we started looking in North and South Carolina - Georgia wasn’t even in our plans at the time. Mike, a customer of mine at the Baltimore shop, said ‘check out Richmond Hill.’ He’s an executive with Domino Sugar and got transferred from Savannah to Baltimore. He used to live in Keller and bragged about the area. We checked it out and decided to make the move. I still have my shop up in Baltimore. The girls who worked for me lease the shop from me. When I opened the shop here, I brought down some of the original antique furniture from my grandfather’s shop, like the original barber chairs, waiting chairs and cash register. The highest denomination the register goes up to is $1, with increments of five cents, just to give you an idea of how old it is.

What is your impression of Richmond Hill in the time that you’ve spent here?

You can certainly see it’s a growing area. You’ve got the great climate, friendly people and you’re close to a lot of things here. You’re close to Florida and the Carolinas, and you’re not far from the mountains. The only negative thing I can say is all the bugs here. But, as a friend of mine says, it’s the one thing that keeps all the yankees away.

You seem to have the reputation of being a mentor to a lot of local young people for the sport of baseball. What motivated you to get involved in the local baseball scene?

All my boys are involved in sports. I was heavily involved in the sports program up in Maryland. I ran the baseball program up there, which was affiliated with Ripken Baseball. We did a lot of coaching and clinics. And I’ve been coaching rec baseball teams since I’ve been down here. I’m also on the rec baseball board here.

Some of my greatest memories were of my old coaches back when I was a kid. I’m trying to pass that on to these kids. I do it for both the love of the game and also because I enjoy teaching them. It’s all about the kids; that’s the bottom line. Some people get caught up with the competiveness of the sport, but the important thing is what is within the best interests of the kids.

What sports have you played yourself?

I’ve played a little bit of football in high school, but I’m mainly a baseball guy. I played a lot of rec ball, high school ball and travel ball. I played a lot of adult softball, which I still do today in Richmond Hill.

What pro teams do you like?

Obviously, the Baltimore Orioles. As much I like to play it, I prefer to watch football on television. I actually have season tickets to the Ravens. I do follow the Braves; they’re a young team and are going through some growing pains - just like the Orioles are. We’ve been to a couple of the Sand Gnats game. We’re currently trying to somehow affiliate the Sand Gnats with our rec program here. We also want to affiliate the rec with the middle and high school programs. If utilized correctly, the rec could be a feeder program for them.

What is your favorite movie?

‘The Sandlot’ and ‘The Natural’ are two great baseball flicks in my collection. I also like ‘Braveheart’ and a lot of the World War II movies.

What is your favorite television show?

I’m too busy to watch much television but, when I do, I usually watch ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ or ‘Law and Order’. Whenever I lay down and get into bed, they’re the ones that always seem to be on.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I’m a rock guy - stuff from the seventies and eighties. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Deep Purple. I like some country and even classical every once in a while.

Besides your endeavors on the ball field, do you have any hobbies?

I have a ’62 Corvette I’m working on. I took the body off the frame and had the front end suspension re-done, and I work on it when I can. We enjoy having a bunch of people in the neighborhood coming over for grilling out in our backyard in Buckhead. I come from a large Italian family, so every Sunday it was nothing to have 20-30 people at the dinner table, and it was always the more, the merrier. And that’s kind of my philosophy today.

From all accounts, it’s not easy for a small business to thrive with today’s economy. How has your business venture been so far?

We’ve done pretty well at My Grandfather’s Place. We’re a family barber salon, so we do anywhere from the little kids to hot towel shaves to women’s cuts. We do the whole ball of wax, and business has been great.

You know what, with me it’s never been about making a million dollars. You want to live within your means – that’s the bottom line. I’m a family guy; I like to spend time with my wife and kids. The thing is, if you live within your means, then you’re happy. There are only so many hours and days in the week. If you’re going to work all that time and live above your means, that means you’re going to be away from your family. It’s not uncommon to find someone making $50,000 a year that is much happier than someone making a million a year.

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