The barber pole spinning red and blue means they’re open for business, which means there’s rat-a-tat, back-and-forth chatter between customers and brothers and neighbors and friends.
Jeff’s Barbershop opened in Hopkins during the JFK administration, and the conversation has been going on ever since.
“Between the two of us, I think we’ve been barbering for close to 100 years,” says Jeff DeLozier, 82, who opened the shop in 1963, before being joined in the business by his brother, Rich DeLozier, 76, about 15 years ago.
Underneath the constant chatter is a clip-clip-clip sound. The air is filled with the smell of the kind of aftershave that makes a freshly shaved face tingle. The barber chairs, with their cracked black vinyl, still have ashtrays in the armrests. Mostly gray hair clippings dust the linoleum floor.
It’s the kind of place where bowling trophies line the shelf above the mirrors. (Those are Jeff’s.) Where portraits of Jesus and landscapes of pristine lakes and autumnal trees hang near the ceiling. (Jeff painted some of those, too.) There’s a trophy buck, and stacks of old National Geographic magazines piled in the corner.
It’s the kind of place that’s becoming hard to find.
According to the Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners, there were 2,053 registered barbershops in Minnesota in 1970 (when organized records were first kept). Now there are 800. Men and women are turning to other places for styling and color, eschewing the neighborhood barber experience for fast cuts at chain shops like Fantastic Sams or the luxury of a salon.
“There aren’t too many of us small barbershops around anymore,” Jeff agreed.
Maybe that’s why his customers are so loyal — more like friends, more like family.
After getting out of the Marines in 1956, Jeff returned to Minnesota, where he continued studying for a teaching degree at the University of Minnesota. But he quit and enrolled in barber school so he could start providing for his family sooner.
In 1963, after an apprenticeship, he opened his own shop in Hopkins. His younger brother, who owned his own shop in Bemidji for 20 years, joined him in 2001.
Now, the two hold court nearly every day.
Some of their customers come by even when they don’t need haircuts, just to shoot the breeze. Subjects range from places they’ve lived, places they’ve bowled and places they’ve fished, to real estate, taxes, politics, health, sports and family.
They’ve stayed with Jeff’s because they appreciate the fair prices and solid cuts, with no fancy add-ons or pressure to buy expensive hair products. And then there’s the conversation.
“Number one, I like the haircut. Number two, I like the company,” said Fred Bast, a Jeff’s customer for more than 30 years, who was getting a haircut on a slow midweek day.
Bast has a third thing he likes: the animated, often aimless conversation, a word for which we can’t print in a family newspaper.
Word of mouth
The DeLoziers don’t do much advertising for Jeff’s. No need to, they said.
When they first found out that someone had listed their business on Google, they were suspicious about who had listed them there, and why. Now, though, they’re proud of their rating — 4.5 out of 5 stars.
“In a barbershop, you have a little more of a personal touch,” said Jeff by way of explanation. “You don’t see that much in the chain shops.”
But for many of their customers, Jeff’s isn’t just a barbershop. It’s a family tradition.
“Some of the customers that their parents brought in are now bringing their grandkids in for haircuts,” Jeff said.
In fact, the brothers are so close to their customers that they check the obituaries every day to see if they’ve lost any.
“Over the years we keep losing them,” Rich said. “They keep dying on us. We tell them not to do that, but they keep doing it.”
Jeff has had his own bouts with illness, having survived two rounds of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But he still comes in almost every day.
“People keep asking me, you know, ‘When are you going to retire? Hope it isn’t soon.’ I say, ‘Well, I’ll keep going as long as my feet can carry me down here.’ ”