After nearly 50 years in one spot, Jeff Frailey moves his barber shop across town — for his customers
Nearly 50 years makes it sound even better.
What’s even more interesting, he had done it since 1971 from the same place, Frailey’s Barber Shop at 200 Hickory Street in Warren. And that location — essentially a basement at the corner of Hickory St. and Pennsylvania Ave. — had been a barber shop for 140 years.
Now it’s a basement again.
Frailey — like his father before him — is still clipping away… only now it’s at 705 Conewango Ave.
” I think you’ll really like this new shop, no stairs and free parking,” Frailey posted on his Facebook page on March 2.
Even with the drastic change, some things will never change, starting with the ‘shop talk.’ The Times Observer sat in Frailey’s new shop Friday afternoon while Dick Bertch was in the barber’s chair and Jerry McKown waited in the peanut gallery.
“If you’re looking for the classic barbershop experience, look no further,” said one online review of Frailey’s Barber Shop.
McKown has been getting his hair cut by the Fraileys for 60 years — first from Jeff’s father Gordon when he opened a barber shop on Warren’s west end and Hickory St., and then by Jeff.
Bertch admits to having a little less (well, a lot less) on the top than he used to have.
“He asked for a crewcut,” quipped McKown, who was drawn in as a regular 60 years ago with a marketing tool called the “Welcome Wagon” — a free haircut for first-time customers.
There was no social media in those days, obviously, so advertising was a bit more friendly then.
Frailey has some of the same customers he started with — no joke — all thanks to the Welcome Wagon. Well, that’s a joke. But he’s so close to many of his clientele that he couldn’t bare to lose any because they could no longer get down the steep steps to the ground floor at the old location.
It had been years since Jack Green was able to get to Frailey’s due to the stairs.
“It turns out he said it wasn’t that long, but it was really good to see him again,” said Frailey. “I’ve had other customers that came in this past week and it was really great to see them again. Everyone was super excited with the new shop.”
The relationships he’s built over 48 years are endless. He estimates hundreds of thousands of haircuts in that span.
“I’d have to work until I was 114 to get to a million,” said Frailey.
One of those dear friends, John Geiger, helped move the backdrop, chairs, and equipment from one location to the other last week, along with Andy, Trent, and Larry.
“I have met an awful lot of people over the years doing this,” said Frailey. “Every day we’re laughing about something, but then (if I told you all the stories) you would have to hang out and never be able to make a deadline.”
The thing is, Jeff wanted to be a professional baseball player.
“I didn’t have a plan B, so I told my dad I’d go to barber school,” said Frailey.
He was 19. Barber’s school was nine months, and then Frailey served an 11-moth apprenticeship — for his dad.
Working together, “I did my thing and he did his,” said Frailey.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t know what Jeff was up to at the top of those stairs on Hickory Street. Jeff would stand out on the sidewalk as his future wife, Michelle, walked to work at the former New Process next door. One day, Jeff got the nerve to go over and ask her out on a date.
“I will have to let you know,” she told him, probably adding to his father’s delight and the barber shop banter.
After 43 years of marriage, Jeff and Michelle have three children, Lindsey, 39, Ashley, 36, and Jeffrey, 33, and five grandchildren ranging in age from 17 down to 2.
Jeff has cut all the boys’ hair at one time or another.
There are a lot of good memories from the 200 Hickory St. location.
“Working with my dad like I did was an awesome thing that not many get to do,” said Jeff. “We started working together in June of 1971 and he passed away in December of 2001. It was great for me in that I had a ready-made customer base that knew me from my involvement in high school sports and such, and I found out how close my customers followed sports when I was coaching Little League all-stars and they had felt part of it since they would hear about it every day.”
Of course they followed his teams; he’s had customers for 48 years.
“I don’t feel old,” said Frailey, now 68, who used to walk to and from his shop on Hickory from his home in Pleasant Township. Twice last week, he walked the 2-1/4 miles to the new location.
Some things never change — like the phone number for one thing.
“The old saying is, they just clip away,” said Frailey.