A lost art: Hohlbein to retire from barbering in Ottoville

·2 min read

May 27—OTTOVILLE — Generations of men have come to Jerry Hohlbein for a haircut.

As one of the few remaining barbers in Ottoville, Hohlbein has seen children and grandchildren of clients become regular clients themselves, some of whom have been visiting his shop for decades.

His career has spanned 65 years, three cities and dozens of hairstyles—the mohawk, the mullet, the mop-top. But that career will soon come to an end when Hohlbein retires June 11.

"I was always available for the people," Hohlbein said. "It just becomes habit."

A lost art

Hohlbein's first barbering job was at the Barr Hotel in 1957, he said. He had just graduated from Toledo Barber College, which started recruiting Hohlbein while he was in high school.

He considers himself fortunate to have worked 60 hours per week back when The Beatles popularized long hair for men, leading many barbers had to seek employment elsewhere, Hohlbein said.

He worked for several Lima and Ottoville barber shops before opening one of his own, an endeavor so successful he's spent the past five decades there.

Hohlbein is now one of two barbers working in the town.

"Unless something changes, I think the barber—male barber especially—will be history," he said. Now that many barber colleges have closed, Hohlbein said "there's not a calling for barbers to exist."

Tribute to the past

Hohlbein's shop is a tribute to nostalgia. The walls are decorated with colorful shaving mugs, and in the back is a glass case filled with antique clippers, razer blades and shaving brushes.

He maintains a familial atmosphere too, one in which a client's death is memorable.

"It's like anybody else's job where you get to know the whole family. ... Some of them leave footprints on your heart," Hohlbein said.

Clients are so accustomed to stopping by to see Hohlbein that he notifies them when he leaves for vacation, he said. Others bring their children or grandchildren by Hohlbein's for a haircut, creating a new generation of regulars.

After 65 years, Hohlbein is ready to retire.

Still, Hohlbein anticipates that when his last day arrives, some of his most loyal customers will be back for one last haircut. "I can count on several guys to say: I've got to have the last haircut by you," Hohlbein said. "We'll see how that works out."