HoustonChronicle.com – Longime River Oaks barber Rudy Rincon dies at 78

Rudy Rincon, the longtime owner of Avalon Barber Shop in River Oaks, died last week at a Harbor Hospice facility in Houston following a lengthy battle with colon cancer. He was 78.

Rincon owned the prominent barber shop for 45 years with the late Joe Quintero, cutting hair for some of the most prominent Houstonians, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, former Houston Mayors Bob Lanier and Bill White, as well as former U.S. Sen. and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen.

“He was one of the early Latino business owners in Houston,” said attorney Jacob Monty, who has had his hair cut at Rincon’s shop for the last 20 years. “What’s interesting is that he didn’t end up starting his business in the Latino part of town, he chose River Oaks … It was a weird place where you’d walk in and you’d hear Rudy and Joe talking in Spanish but most of their customers were Anglo professionals.”

Prior to the Avalon Barber Shop, Rincon worked as a crop picker in his hometown of Waelder and as a truck driver in Houston. He later decided to attend barber school, where he reunited with Quintero, who was also from Waelder. The two spent a number of years working at Avalon Barber Shop before the original owner, Charlie Holcomb, sold them the business.

“He loved his customers,” said Rincon’s wife, Rosemarie. “You never hear about anything going on in River Oaks because (the residents) keep it to themselves. But they always came to Rudy and they would sit there on that chair and tell him everything. And he was there for them.”

Rosemarie, who was married to Rincon for 31 years, met him at the barber shop during an annual Christmas party he hosted for customers and it was “love at first sight.”

“It was his personality, the way he carried himself,” she said. “He was very loving … he never knew a stranger. Never. I don’t care if you were poor, rich, I don’t care where you came from. He never met a stranger.”

White often spoke to Rincon about the changing demographics in Houston and the growing prominence of Latino business leaders.

“He’s one of the folks who watched Houston change from a regional city to a global city,” said White, who frequented the shop for more than 30 years. “It was interesting that he had lots of friends and crossed many lines in the community but never forgot his Mexican-American heritage.”

According to White, the deep bonds Rincon established with his customers are rare in today’s business world and something he will sorely miss.

“There’s a sadness and a continued longing to have a personal relationship with people,” White said. “These days … people don’t stay in the same job in the same place as long as they once did. Rudy did tell me that at one time he didn’t want to retire because so many of his personal relationships were with his customers.”

Political consultant Allen Blakemore said he has had a standing appointment at Avalon Barber Shop every two weeks for the last 20 years, primarily because of the atmosphere Rincon created at the shop.

“He was an honorable man who looked at his trade as a high calling to take care of people and help people look good and in that way feel good about themselves,” said Blakemore, who even took his daughters to the shop for their first haircuts. “He watched kids grow up in the barber shop.”

Rosemarie said watching generations of men come through his doors for a haircut was one of his favorite parts of his job and he prided himself on never forgetting a face. She said he had a difficult time coping after his illness prevented him from returning to work.

“He was sorry that he couldn’t say goodbye to all his customers,” she said. “That’s one thing that was hard for him. He loved his wife and his kids, but he didn’t want to be around anymore because his customers were what made him happy, what made him want to live and to get up in the morning.”

Rincon is survived by his wife Rosemarie Rincon; daughter and son-in-law Jaclyn Rincon-Lopez and Erick Lopez; son and daughter-in-law John-Michael Rincon and Maya Kim; daughter and son-in-law Sylvia and David Velasquez; son and partner Michael Rincon and Joe Elder; son Kenneth Rincon; stepson and step-daughter-in-law Binh and Samantha Khuong. He is also survived by his grandchildren Carlos Rincon, Annelise, Madeline, Eric Andrew and Rex Lopez, Caden Carraway, Devin and Nick Velasquez and his great-grandson Joseph Allen Rincon.

Rincon, who died June 22, is preceded in death by his son Rudy T.; his parents; sister Lupe Gonzales; brother Tsais Rincon; step-daughter Michelle Medrano; mother-in-law Gloria Banda Sanchez; and sister-in-law Josephine Luna.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Family and friends will gather following the services at Heights Funeral Home.