Thursday, August 03, 2000

Mason growth just fine for barber

After 41 years, he's got some loyal customers

By Mara H. Gottfried
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Gary Oglesby has seen the faces change in Mason over the past 41 years. But the heads mostly stay the same.

        Many of this barber's customers are loyal ones, re turning year after year to his old-style barbershop. But as this sleepy village grew up, Mr. Oglesby has found it harder to know each customer by name.

        “Years ago, I knew everyone who walked down the street; but now I hardly know anyone,” the 59-year-old man said.

        Mr. Oglesby recalls Mason as the village it once was, with about 5,000 residents when he first picked up his shears in 1959. Now, this bustling suburb has a population of about 18,000.

        With the growth of the city, many small businesses have been forced out. But Bob and Gary's Barber Shop has survived the competition of four hair salons and remains the oldest barbershop in Mason.

        “Customer loyalty and tradition keeps them coming back,” said John Harris, president of the Mason-Lan den-Kings Chamber of Commerce.

        “There are probably gentlemen in this town who won't have their hair cut at a salon as long as they're on this Earth.”

        Business at Bob and Gary's Barber Shop is sometimes too good.

        “He has more customers than he knows what to do with,” Mr. Harris said. “I've

        seen people waiting outside 30 to 45 minutes before they open to secure a spot.”

        Customers wait in orange seats that once adorned the stands at Crosley Field. Ten hornet nests hang from the ceiling. Two bass, three deer, a domestic sheep and two blue-wing teal are mounted on the walls.

        It is this small-town feel that many of his customers seek.

        “The atmosphere is better here because you get gossip and politics,” said Ben Dotson of Deerfield Township, one of Mr. Oglesby's original customers.

        “Coming here is like going to the old general store.”

        Casey Crouse is also a longtime customer, but he sticks out from the mostly older gentlemen waiting their turn. He is 19, but has been coming to this barbershop for 18 years.

        “I got my first haircut here,” the Mason man said. “My dad brought me, and he's been coming here since it opened. This is a nice place to go. It's a place where I think I would bring my own kids.”

        A notable change since Bob and Gary's opened in 1964 has been the price of a haircut. It has risen from $1.50 to $11.

        “I can remember when I started cutting hair, people said that haircuts would someday be $10,” Mr. Oglesby said. “I thought, "Never in my lifetime.' But here we are.”

        While Mason has changed, Mr. Oglesby's barbershop is nearly frozen in time — even the original cash register remains.

        His favorite part of the job he began as an 18-year-old are his customers.

        “You don't make a lot of money doing this, and you're definitely not going to get rich,” Mr. Oglesby said. “But it's a rewarding job when your customers come back year after year. It makes you feel like you're a well-liked and needed part of this town.”


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