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Published: Tuesday, 5/13/2008

Toledo-area barbershops function as social hubs

When I was a youngster in a town of 600, the local barbershop was the center of activity.

The barber also ran the auto-license agency, and he sold car and home insurance. There was always lots of conversation - about high school sports, the latest political scandals, gossip. And, of course, the men made some "friendly" wagers.

Many things have changed in the last half-century. Haircuts that once cost $1 now generally run $10 and up. And there's no longer a shaving mug for each customer.

From left, Marshall Byrd, Andre Allen, Orlando Kynard, and Mike Lee, Jr., at Headquarters on Lagrange Street. From left, Marshall Byrd, Andre Allen, Orlando Kynard, and Mike Lee, Jr., at Headquarters on Lagrange Street.
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But one thing hasn't changed: Men go to their favorite barbershop for more than just a haircut.

For example, Rob Hoobler, owner of the Barber Shop on Summit Street in Point Place, estimates that half of his regular customers like to talk about motorcycles, hot rods, and classic cars, and the other half like to talk about hunting and fishing.

Mr. Hoobler, a biker himself and a former hot-rod owner, has numerous scale models and photos of classic cars in his shop, which also displays an old jukebox that's a reproduction of the trunk of a 1957 Ford Thunderbird.

And he keeps a large collection of old movies. "A lot of people especially like to see the old cartoons," he said.

Rob Hoobler maintains a biker/hotrod theme in his shop on Summit Street in Point Place. Rob Hoobler maintains a biker/hotrod theme in his shop on Summit Street in Point Place.
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At Headquarters Barber & Beauty on Lagrange Street, "We talk sports all day," said Omar Johnson, manager.

The TV is usually tuned to a sports channel, and customers can peruse a collection of magazines like Sports Illustrated (including the swimsuit issues, of course) and ESPN, golf publications, and some avant-garde men's fashion magazines.

"It helps to pass the time," said Mr. Johnson, adding that even with six barber chairs there's sometimes a wait.

At Bill's Barber Shop on Sylvania Avenue, customers can do a little "horse trading," but actually they'll be trading or buying golf clubs. Bill Baumberger, now semiretired as a barber, is a golf enthusiast and has a collection of clubs and bags on display, and for sale.

"We sell a little bit of everything," said Mr. Baumberger. "Most of the [customers] are interested in that kind of stuff." His shop has a selection of outdoors magazines and gun-collecting publications (another interest of his).

Customers at Bob's Barber Shop in Luckey can air their local political gripes with Robert Emans, who opened the shop in 1965. Mr. Emans, now semiretired, has been a trustee of Wood County's Troy Township for 18 years.

Many of his customers are farmers, and lately he has been getting an earful about "the increased cost of fuel and fertilizer. The price of grain is higher, but their costs to put out corn and beans this year will eat up that [gain]."

There is also local gossip, but Mr. Emans points out that it's a bit like Las Vegas: "What is said here, stays here."

Village Barber Shop in Woodville has a large rack of reading materials for the adults but also offers a perk for customers with kids: a play area.

"A lot of kids like to play here," said Lauri Perkins, owner. "We have cool toys."

The shop also has a checkerboard set up on a table. "You'd be surprised how many people play checkers," said Paul Hammer, who has been a Woodville barber for 52 years.

Shear Delight Hair Styling Salon in Genoa has toys, games, and puzzles for children of its male and female customers. "We welcome kids," said Sue Aman, a barber there. She estimated that about half of regular customers bring young ones with them.

Once a customer settles into a chair, he or she is likely to talk about local happenings, said Brian Goltz, owner. "Politics are a really big topic," he added.



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