01 Jan 2023 Event Venue honors the legacy of Max Henry
By Stefanie Brazile
When Max Henry’s barber shop closed in late 2019, many men and women in Faulkner County lost their hangout.
Similar to the hit TV sitcom “Cheers,” Max’s Country Gentlemen Barber Service provided excellent hair styling, and everyone knew your name. “Everyone” means Max and Vickie James, his assistant of 45 years. Each day, chairs were filled as men and women talked politics, religion and Conway news.
Max attended Eaton Barber College in Little Rock because he didn’t want to work in a factory setting. He wanted a skill and loved people. “He never one day dreaded going to work — it was a pleasure,” said Brenda Henry, his wife of 37 years. “He loved to make men and ladies look their best.”
Vickie, a certified barber technician, describes her 45 years at the Country Gentlemen shop with a smile. “I had the best job in the world. I tell no tales.”
The last part of that sentence is a reference to the gossip that went on as hair was cut, buzzed, snipped and trimmed. But there’s also a serious side to Max’s work. Over the years, deep friendships were forged, and Vickie said they also did a lot of counseling and witnessing about the difference Jesus had made in their lives.
“We were just family, and our customers were family,” Vickie said. “We held people’s hands through difficult times and prayed with people.”
Since Max’s death in November 2019, Vickie and her husband, Larry, continue a close friendship with Brenda. The ladies work side by side on projects at their beloved Friendship Baptist Church. Max loved gospel singing and was pretty good at it himself, and the two couples took vacations and attended concerts together.
Max owned a slice of a building that runs from Front Street (across from First Security Bank’s downtown location) to Spencer Street. Clients entered the Country Gentlemen from Front Street, and Brenda ran Creative Curl beauty shop in the other half for 35 years. Her entrance was on Spencer and there was no connecting door.
Max was also a mechanic and was licensed to buy and sell guns, vehicles and other items. Because of that, a lot of people came to the Country Gentlemen for business other than hair.
Max dealt with illness for five years but worked until three weeks before his death at age 75. During those final weeks, he told Vickie to put a for-sale sign on the business. He quickly received many offers, one from Pete Tanguay, who owned a business that adjoined the Country Gentlemen. After years of waving hello to Pete each day, Max wanted him to have the building.
Pete completely renovated the building, but didn’t forget Max’s legacy. “We decided to create a venue that was elegant, so much so that you felt like you walked out of Conway when you walked in, and one that set the stage for your next event by taking sound, acoustics, lighting and connectivity to the max,” Pete said.
The Max Event Venue opened in November 2021. Before an event honoring Max in the current space, Pete wrote a Facebook invitation to the public: “If you knew Max Henry, you knew someone whose life made an impact on hundreds, if not thousands of people in the Conway area through his daily life as a barber.”
Brenda knows that her husband would be pleased. “He would love that it involves people and that it brings people together.”
The venue has hosted nearly 100 events since its opening.