Popular with film shoots, the Valley brothers at Alfreda Hairdressers have their own kind of fame, a recognition that comes from perseverance, longevity and a kind of serenity.
Born in Salt River/Woodstock, they have spent their entire lives here, in the barber shop where they work and in the residence behind the shop where they live. Grandfather Cassiem “Old Man” Valley who came out from Bombay, India, started the barber shop at the current location sometime around 1903, though the exact date is a little unclear.
Grandsons Ismail Mohamed Cassiem Valley and Cassiem Mohamed Valley still actively ply their trade, though sadly, brothers Ebraim Mohamed Valley and Isaac Mohamed Cassiem Valley have passed on. They attended Wesley Training College, Salt River and then started working in their grandfather’s shop, where they have been for the last 60 years or so.
They still have many regular clients (and at R20 a haircut it’s not hard to understand why), though the pace is a little slower these days. They have no thoughts of retiring, as Ismail says “What am I going to do at home? You have to keep your mind busy.” Their opening hours, however, are still 7am to 5pm, even at the more leisurely pace they claim to maintain.
When asked if anyone has been in business for as long as they have, they say all have retired or passed away. The longest ‘rival’ was the family firm of I. Marx & Sons which owned several buildings including the Duchess Overall Factory, but they too sold up and moved away, leaving only the Valleys as the longest remaining institution in the area. They seem unphased by the changes around them over the many years they’ve worked and lived here.
The street used to be residential, and they have seen it transformed into small businesses by locals as well as by the more recent influx of African immigrants. These immigrants have also opened smaller ‘salons’ but according to Ismail they don’t last long.
The family lived through Apartheid’s attempts to push out non-white residents first from District 6, then Woodstock and Salt River, but luckily managed to remain where they have always been.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next few years as the area continues to be upgraded, as old and new Woodstock continue to meet. When asked what the future holds, whether they have sons to take over the business, Cassiem shrugged and said that their sons are professionals, and that they had no interest in continuing with the barbershop. Though the way he says it, it’s simply part of life; though it will definitely be sad when this place, a holdover from a past time disappears from the streets of Salt River.
All interior photographs courtesy of Melanie Cleary.
Exterior photograph courtesy of Ruan Benade.
UPDATE: We’ve added a map for the location of Alredo’s and you can view it by clicking here.
Alfredo’s is on the right hand side as you turn left into Alfred Str.