Matriarch was fixture at shop

No telling who you might bump into at Thomas Barber Shop in Buckhead.

Customers run the gamut of life —- Coca-Cola executives, politicians, plumbers. Any and everybody. They come for the banter and family atmosphere as much as a trim. It's an old-school oasis, free of pretensions, at 1268 W. Paces Ferry Road.

And that's what draws patrons, some of whom have penned online accolades.

"A lot of places try to play off the old-time barber shop look and feel," wrote Owen R. of Atlanta. "Thomas Barber Shop doesn't have to fake this; that's what it's always been and that's what it always will be."

Frank L. Wilson III, a family friend and attorney, has been a patron since he was 5. He credits Doris Thomas, the family matriarch, with setting the tone and making the place homey.

"Mrs. Thomas was the yin to Big Tommy's yang," Mr. Wilson said. "He was loud, a character sort of larger than life. She wasn't a barber but she would be there all day, whether she was doing manicures or greeting people. She was the one who made the shop feel like family."

Doris Rose Thomas, 81, of Douglasville died Monday at her home from kidney complications. The funeral is 1 p.m. today at the chapel of Jones-Wynn Funeral Home.

Mrs. Thomas and her late husband, Gilmer "Big Tommy" Thomas Sr., opened the shop in 1959. Years later, Mrs. Thomas started doing manicures after she took a course at Atlanta Tech.

With her dry humor, she was a shop fixture until the early 2000s.

"She worked on the hands of a lot of prominent people," said Walter Clexton Thomas of Fayetteville, the son who runs the shop.

Mrs. Thomas had been looking forward to the shop's 50th anniversary in September. Coca-Cola plans to produce a limited-edition bottled Coke that bears the business name.

Additional survivors include a daughter, Doris Ann Thomas Rye of Douglasville; another son, Gilmer Waymon Thomas Jr. of Cumming; a brother, Robert Rose; two stepbrothers, Arlin Rose and Jerry Rose; and a sister, Carolyn Branham, all of Elgin, S.C.; five stepsisters, Emmadora Rose Mikesch of Fenton, Mo., Iris Rose, Betty Rose Timmerberg, Vera Rose Nelson and Jean Rose Jeffers, all of Elgin, S.C.; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.