Inside Berry’s Barber Shop in St. Charles, guys come to get a haircut, enjoy a hot lather shave and talk about whatever they want.
“Not a whole lot has changed here through the century,” says barber Rick Sands, noting the shop has been at the same location for 102 years. “It’s that consistency and stability that keeps men coming back here. However, we’re one of the only barbershops in the valley that continues to give a hot lather full shave and steamed towel.
“It’s a novelty thing.”
Islands for men
Today, many young men come in to Berry’s on their wedding day with all their groomsmen to create a memory of getting their first shave from a barber.
“We battle with the price because you can do two or three haircuts in the same time it takes to do one shave,” Sands says. “So, we charge $30. It costs $55 to $75 for the same thing in downtown Chicago.”
Sands and Ron Saltzgiver, owner of Berry’s, work Tuesday through Saturday and take appointments for their crew cuts, flattops, Dillingers — a pompadour style from the 1950s — or standard gentleman’s haircuts.
Lately, younger guys have been asking for the slicked-back, stylized 1960s haircut made popular by the television show “Mad Men,” Sands says.
The atmosphere of a barbershops is what brings clients back time and again.
“Barbershops are like islands for men,” he says. “They can talk about sports or just about everything they want to in a man’s life like fishing and hunting. In a sense, it’s an unassuming fraternity.”
‘Cut hair until you die’
“Most barbershops stopped offering shaves during the past few decades mainly because it’s a tedious, long process,” says Steve Frantz, owner of The Barber Shop, located inside the Riverwest Fitness Club in Batavia, noting the AIDS scare in the 1980s didn’t help matters.
But barbershops still offer men something different than hair-cutting chains, he says.
Barbershops offer men something different than hair cutting chains, says Steve Frantz, owner of The Barber Shop, located inside the Riverwest Fitness Club in Batavia.
“When they come to a barbershop, it’s more one-on-one attention,” he says. “The barbers get to know them and what they like. I usually know what my clients want just because they’ve been coming to me for so long.”
Frantz has been a barber for more than 30 years. His brother, Cliff Frantz, has spent 50 years as a barber and owns a competing business — Looking Good in Batavia.
“We get along,” Steve Frantz says. “I figure as long as you can see and you can keep your hands from shaking, you can cut hair until you die.”
His business is based on appointments instead of walk-ins.
“I’ve done it that way since I opened up shop,” he says. “It just works better since I am by myself. I tell my clients that they can take a chance and walk in, but if they have somewhere to be, they should call ahead.”
He doesn’t cut women’s hair, but his clientele runs the gamut for age, profession and hair style.
He charges $17 for his haircuts, except on Saturdays when he adds $1.
“I don’t jack around with the prices much,” he says. “The country is broke. When it comes to eating or getting your haircut, I lose out.”
Frantz would like to find someone to work part time for him eventually.
“I’m 60 years old, and I’d like to take a day off once in a while,” he says. “Life is short.”
A bit of history
Barbershops have changed slightly from their historical origin of being a place where only men could go to get a haircut and only men were doing the cutting.
The quaint, corner shops with the famous rolling barber poles and comfy chairs still exist in almost every town.
But more women have become barbers the last few decades, and the newer barbershops popping up offer added amenities like neck and shoulder massages and discount coupons.
Glenn Miner, historian for the Batavia Historical Society, recently researched the subject of barbershops and found that many of the original shops in Batavia also offered baths for its customers.
The first barbershop in Batavia opened in 1852 by William Stewart, who was one of the first African-Americans in the town.
And the history of barbershops continues on today.
“Going to the barbershop is just something you pass on to your sons and grandsons,” Miner says. kc