PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A landmark Northeast Portland business closed its doors forever. Geneva’s Shear Perfection was the premier barbershop and salon in Portland’s African-American community. Owner Paul Knauls is known as the Mayor of Northeast Portland.
“I tell everybody that if you live in Northeast Portland, I’ll be your mayor forever because you didn’t vote me in, so you can’t vote me out,” said Knauls through laughter. “Well, I’m 89 and I’m doing fine, but…”
Knauls is calling it quits. His barbershop and salon, Geneva’s Shear Perfection, has been a landmark on Northeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard for nearly 30 years. But Knauls said the coronavirus makes the new normal too restrictive.
“The little kids can’t hug me. The ladies come in, they can’t hug me. I can’t hug them. It just makes it a very easy decision really—it really was,” explained Knauls. “I’m going to miss it, that’s for sure. I miss the people.”
In 2017, Knauls walked KOIN 6 News’ Ken Boddie through his Wall of Fame that once adorned Geneva’s. Famous entertainers and athletes came here, or to the nightclubs that Knauls and his late wife and hairstylist Geneva had in Portland’s Albina District in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Knauls’ establishments were a vital part of Black life in Portland for decades and were known throughout the country.
“They knew about Geneva’s. They knew about the Cotton Club,” said Knauls. “And it was a good ride through there, a very good ride.”
There’s a historical marker that honors Paul and Geneva on Northeast 18th and Alberta, in the heart of what was a predominantly Black neighborhood.
It’s gentrified now. But the changing face of Northeast Portland isn’t why he’s closing.
The Arkansas native and his son, Paul Jr. decided it’s just time, given the push by the pandemic.
“I’m gonna buy me a rocking chair,” said Knauls. “I’m going to sit there for about six months, and then I’m gonna start rockin’.”
Knauls said he has already lined up another African-American business to take over the building. He assured KOIN 6 News that we’ll see him at community events, when he’s not in his rocking chair.