The weather outside was cold and wet, but inside Jamie’s Barbershop it was warm and cozy. The wood-paneled walls and landscape mural were reminiscent of the Brady Bunch house, or the Andy Griffith show, which was the inspiration for the shop’s remodeling in the 1970s.
“I don’t know if I would ever change it,” the owner Megan Smith said as she cut the hair of Ricky Carter, one of her regular customers. “I really like the nostalgia.”
Although not always under the same name or ownership, Jamie’s Barbershop on Bacon Street in downtown Hillsdale has been established in the community since the 1940s.
Almost four years ago, Smith bought Jamie’s Barbershop from the previous owner, Jamie Vreeland, so he could retire. Smith met Vreeland when she was in beauty school and stopped by the barbershop on Friday afternoons to watch him work.
“I always said I never wanted to own my own shop,” Smith said. “But when I first stopped in here, Jamie told me I would own the shop one day. I laughed at him and said, ‘Yeah, I highly doubt that.’”
Smith has worked professionally in the hair business for six years, but she has known how to cut and style hair since her mother taught her at the age of 13. After attending Hillsdale Beauty School post-high school and working two part-time jobs as a cosmetologist, Smith bought the barbershop in August of 2016.
“He knew he wanted to retire, but he wanted to make sure the business would stay open and that his people would be taken care of,” Smith said.
“And he knew that I had the same mindset as him,” Smith continued. “That I really wanted to keep it as a barbershop, that I would not turn it into a salon. I like to keep it men-oriented because this is one of the last barbershops around.”
Smith has maintained typical barbershop practices, including the traditional hot-towel treatment.
“A hot towel is along the lines of a facial,” Smith said as she massaged Carter’s face before wrapping a steaming towel around it.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for so long,” Carter said.
Smith explained that she does not give face shaves, but decided to start the hot-towel treatment that usually accompanies face shaves after several customer requests.
“I started asking customers what about the face shave they really wanted, and they said they really wanted to know what the hot towel feels like,” Smith said.
Smith has been able to add this longer service now that she has help from Dixie Plush, who joined the barbershop team about a month ago.
“I’ve been an instructor at Hillsdale Beauty College for nine years, and my hours got cut, so I wanted to stay either teaching or going into a salon,” Plush said. “I actually stopped in to watch Megan cut guys’ hair, and we got talking, and it just so happened that she needed help.”
Plush also said she’s enjoyed transitioning from an instructor back to a student again.
“Megan’s a great teacher,” Plush said. “A men’s haircut isn’t just a basic men’s haircut, there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Many of the finer techniques Smith learned from Vreeland when she first bought the shop and apprenticed under him for some time. Vreeland still works in the shop on occasion, as he likes interacting with the customers.
“I still have some friends that like to come in and hang out and talk and do the old-fashioned barber thing,” Vreeland said.
Several regular customers, like Carter, were “here before Megan was,” but Smith inherited those regulars. When she answered the phone and talked to a customer booking an appointment, she sounded like she was talking to an old friend.
Both Smith and Vreeland said they’ve also gotten to know several Hillsdale College students who have used their services.
One Hillsdale College customer, senior Alexander Yun, was visiting for the first time on recommendation from a friend.
“A friend of mine got his haircut here, and he said it’s an old-time barbershop where you can get a straight razor shave in the back, so that appeals to me,” Yun said. “I like the old-timey feel.”
Smith said she was “lucky” to have Jamie’s training, because most salons don’t have as much skill in cutting men’s hair. According to Smith, she intends to maintain the barbershop just as it is.
“I don’t want guys to have to go into a salon and feel surrounded by women,” Smith said. “I like that I can keep this oriented toward men so they know they have a spot.”