When Willie Sells was a 20-year-old kid, he would sneak down to the Bonneville Club on 120 N. Greenwood Ave. Now, almost 60 years later, that same building he used to slither into is home to his own business: Tee’s Barbershop.
“I remember coming in here, and they danced up in this area,” Sells said. “In the back — and I wasn’t supposed to go in the back because I was 20, 21 — they’d gamble in the back. The old men told me, ‘Don’t go to deep Greenwood. Somebody will kill you. I was told you were down there the other night.’
“They said, ‘What you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m dancing, looking around.’ They said, ‘You dance somewhere else.’”
Sells was warned to stay away all those years ago, but that never wavered his spirit. He remains on Greenwood to this day.
Tee’s was originally owned by Wilburt Howard Tecumseh, but after his death on April 1, 2003, the barbershop was handed down to Tecumseh’s daughters.
In 2015, they sold Tee’s to Sells. And he’s cherished it ever since.
“Tee’s is a means of providing for myself and my family,” Sells said. “Haircuts, shaves and other services. Look better, feel better and get better. It’s a place for young barbers to get employed so they can better take care of themselves and their family. In the future, we’ll open up this barbershop and expand.”
After graduating from Tyler Barber College in 1963, Sells moved to Tulsa. And in 1985, he got a job at Tee’s, formerly known as Mim’s Barbershop.
Although the name and location have flip-flopped a few times, Sells has been in Greenwood for 36 years. But he actually didn’t grow up in Tulsa. Sells is from Tullahassee, Oklahoma, which is considered one of the oldest all-Black towns in the state.
When Sells arrived in Tulsa, he had to take care of four kids, so he picked up two jobs: aircraft worker/inspector and barber.
A wife of 49 years, four kids, 11 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and 57 years later, he still continues to keep snipping hair.
“This barbershop means the world to me,” Sells said.