Barbershop's quartet trims in harmony

May 27, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Some of their customers come in for the blueberry lollipops, others for the conversation and a friendly ribbing.

The main reason most people walk through the door of Razor's Edge Barber Shop, though, is for a trim by a barber they consider a friend.

This spring marks 40 years since owner Sam Rock opened his doors near Longmeadow Shopping Center in 1969. He even had the same landlord all those years, until recently.

"We have been able to maintain this particular location because of fair rent and being able to work together with the landlord whatever the situation," Rock said of his former landlord, Turner Management Co.


Rock, 71, of State Line, Pa., said he worked in the area years ago, moved to Los Angeles, then came back and saw a business opportunity.

Several months after opening the shop, Rock hired Terry Cool, 60, also of State Line.

Cool has been off for most of the past year recuperating from pancreatic surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He said he would like to return to work, but has to wait for the doctor's permission.

Rock said Cool's barber chair is in a back room, awaiting his return. Rock said they call to check on Cool once or twice a week and often see him at the 7 a.m. Tuesday Bible study they attend together.

Next to start working in the shop was Chuck Garland, 61, of Greencastle, Pa. Garland will have worked at Razor's Edge for 36 years in June.

"We had to come over to Maryland to make a living," Rock joked.

Charlie Thomas is the only Marylander who works in the shop. He also is the youngster of the group at age 47 and "newest guy," with only 25 years on the job.

Thomas said it's unusual for barbers to work for one shop for so long.

"Sam's treated us so well," he said. "It's easy to pick up the shears and move along, but there's no reason to. We get along so well."

"Sam stands by his men," Cool added.

"Well, I tell you, I appreciate the guys," Rock said. "It's the hand of the Lord."

The close-knit group credits chemistry, faith, a sense of humor and a shared work ethic and values for their longevity in working as a team.

Understanding wives also help, Thomas said of a business that sometimes requires long hours. They admit they spend more time together at the barbershop than they do at home.

Rock's wife of 30-plus years lost her battle with cancer several years ago; the other three are married.

Each went to barber schools in different cities and states -- Rock in Philadelphia, Cool in Baltimore, Garland in Pennsylvania and Thomas to what now is Washington County Technical High School.

While other shops have come and gone, Razor's Edge has stood the test of time.

Many of the longtime customers have a favorite barber, if for no other reason than not having to explain what they want done to their hair. Other customers go to the chair that is empty first.

Customer Doug Fiery said when it's time for a trim, he'll drive by the shop and stop in when there aren't many cars in the parking lot. He said he's one of three generations of men in his family who are loyal to Razor's Edge.

"I was probably like 7 when I started coming. I come in for the abuse, too," said Fiery, who added he and Thomas went to Smithsburg High School together.

Bob Johnson, 70, of Hagerstown, said he's a regular customer because the price is right, it's convenient and "it's family."

While the four admit they don't always agree on everything, they said they are quick to put their differences behind them. To keep harmony in the shop, they agreed years ago on the background music.

"They won't let me listen to country," Thomas said, a concession he's willing to make.

Customers also know about Rock's fly fishing business that he set up on the side of the shop about 10 years ago, as well as the tract rack, a way to share his faith with others.

The barbers have seen changes in hairstyles over the years, starting with the long hair of the 1970s, and have seen customers come and go.

They also remember some of the more memorable cuts, like when Cool was asked to carve the Mayflower moving company emblem in a customer's hair after the customer lost a bet.

Thomas lost a football bet that cost him his ponytail.

Their most famous customers include most of the players on the Federal Little League team that went to the Little League World Series last year.

"We have been blessed," Rock said. "We have a good business."

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