Jim Morris can recall two moments from his Newark childhood that may have foreshadowed his current position as owner and operator of the Mug & Brush, a long-standing Old North barbershop he purchased in 2002.

Jim Morris can recall two moments from his Newark childhood that may have foreshadowed his current position as owner and operator of the Mug & Brush, a long-standing Old North barbershop he purchased in 2002.

The first took place before kindergarten, when he was given a toy barber kit. "I carried that thing around with me all summer long," said Morris, who has been cutting for more than three decades.

The second event includes a bit of mischief. In second grade, Morris sat behind a boy with long, "super-straight, blonde hair," and he wondered what would happen if he chopped it off. But when he took his round-tip scissors to the back of the boy's skull, the victim screamed, and the teacher was not pleased.

"She took my scissors and put me in the corner and I wasn't allowed to have [them] back until the end of the nine-week grading period," Morris said.

These experiences aside, Morris did not have a typical entrée into the barber industry. There wasn't a male barber in his family who took him under his wing, and he didn't cut his friends' hair in high school. In the small village of Utica, everyone just went to the same local barbershop.

It was Morris' interest in science and art - he painted and sketched in high school - that led him to believe he might like being a barber. "One thing that helped me with cutting hair is the 3D spatial [aspect], the geometry of it," he said.

Morris' list of passions is long and fascinating. After graduating from the Ohio State College of Barber Styling in 1983, he played guitar in a few bands in Columbus, and even pursued a degree in comparative religions at Ohio State University.

Given Morris' varied background, it's no surprise that his barbershop is a study in eclecticism. On a given day you might see any of the following seated in one of his vintage red leather chairs: a male college student, an older woman who has been coming to Morris since the mid '80s, or a father with a hungry toddler who are both anxious to get to Jack & Benny's.

The décor, which Morris describes as "a funky hodgepodge," includes everything from pictures of sports figures like mixed martial arts fighter Clay Guida and hockey player Dave Caruso to colorful artwork by local artists who just wanted to support their beloved shop.

Morris gives back to the community by highlighting local bands in the "Mug & Brush Sessions," a music video series that is filmed in the shop and archived on YouTube. He also recently donated one of his guitars to the Dick & Jane Project, a local non-profit music organization for kids. But more than anything, he wants to provide a "fun, neighborhood barbershop," just like the one back in Utica.

"The customers knew that it was a gathering place," Morris said. "So there might be 12 people in the shop and a guy sticks his head in the door and he's like, 'How many [are] waiting for cuts?' And only half of them raised their hand because the rest of them, they're just a communal hub."

The Mug & Brush
2433 N. High St.
Old North