At Jamestown barbershop, it’s beer-thirty all the time

By Friends & Neighbors May 5, 2013 17:42

beer-and-hair-signOnce again, I was born too late. Or quit drinking too early.

Because now I can’t take advantage of a great deal at Jamestown’s Old Town Barber Shop:  free beer with a haircut.

You read that right: At the Old Town — right across from Barendregt’s grocery store on Jimtown’s Main Street – you not only get a trim for the bargain price of $10, but an icy-cold Budweiser to go with it at no charge. Sure, you can get water or coffee if you want, but who’d want?

“I’d say about half our customers opt for the beer,” says veteran barber Bill Romiti, whose son Giovanni started the business nearly two years ago.

As a former serious drinker – well, actually I wasn’t that serious, but I was addicted – I would have embraced the deal.

Back then I was not happy that I couldn’t drink at work, during doctor’s appointments, while grocery shopping, at the gas station, in movie theaters or when waiting in line at the DMV.

So being able to quaff a beer at the barber shop, which in my blurry book would have amounted to multitasking, would have been a good deal. Such a good deal that I would have likely gone in for more haircuts – at least once a week – and thus would have looked, if not performed, better at work.

Or maybe I would have asked for a shave to go with that haircut, hoping to parlay it into a second beer. Or I might have repeatedly asked Bill to “take a little more off on the sides,”  “trim up the top” and “make it a little closer in back”  until I was nearly bald – and nearly gassed, depending on how many Buds I could con him out of.

Bill frowned.

“We don’t serve alcoholics,” he says. “If someone comes in here intoxicated, they’re not getting a beer.”

Also, there’s a one-brew limit: Even if Bill takes an hour to craft your mullet or level your flattop, 12 ounces of golden goodness is all you get. And he serves no non-alcoholic beers, foreign beers, boutique beers, micro-brews or beers that taste like strawberry, mango or some other exotic fruit. At Old Town, it’s no-nonsense haircuts and no nonsense beer.

Finally, any high school kids who may be drooling by now should know this: Bill cards, and if you’re not of age, you’ll get a glass of water.

So don’t ask Mom for $10 to “get a haircut,” because all you’ll get is a haircut – which in Jimtown has been hard to find in recent decades.

“I don’t think there’s been a barbershop in Jamestown for a long, long time,” says Bill, who lives in Oakdale.  “But a couple of years ago my son and I came up here and saw this vacant storefront. So we found the owner, signed a lease and went to work.”


Barber Bill Romiti

Bill, a barber for more than 40 years and, he estimates, nearly a quarter-million haircuts, handles the scissors and clippers. Giovanni keeps the finances trim.

What was earlier “some sort of boutique-type business” is now a neat, handsome shop with mirrors, three comfortable barber chairs, vintage photos and posters on the wall, three barbers (Bill, Mary Ann and Valerie) on duty,  and a fridge full of Bud and Bud Light in the back.

“It’s all about our customers,” says Bill. “We already give them a good deal on the haircut, and the beer is just something extra to let them know they’re appreciated.”

The answer to a question many have asked is yes: Even in our heavily regulated nanny society it is legal to give beer away with haircuts. “As long as you’re not selling it, the ABC doesn’t get involved,” explains Bill.

What might as well not be legal, he swears, is putting up a barber pole – an accessory he understandably feels would help attract business.

Because Jamestown’s Main Street is an historic district and because the barbershop building is more than 150 years old, Bill says, the red tape and engineering necessary to attach the old-style wooden pole he envisions would be prohibitively expensive.

“Could put us out of business,” he says.

I’ve heard such nightmarish governmental meddling stories myself, so I called a member of what some call “the commission from hell.”

“I don’t think we’d require any permit for a barber pole,” says Shelly Davis-King, who serves on the well-intentioned but oft-maligned Tuolumne County Historic Preservation Review Commission. “In fact, normally that’s the type of thing we’d encourage.”

But she suggested Bill contact a county staff member before moving forward. A staff member, preferably, willing to discuss the issue over a haircut and a beer.

Chris Bateman, 67, is a journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun.

Copyright 2013, Friends and Neighbors Magazine


By Friends & Neighbors May 5, 2013 17:42
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  1. David W. Tenney May 6, 08:20

    I do not live in town but I would think the locals would be lining up to support a family business like this. In the days of Walmart ruining our small towns this family has taken on an almost impossible challenge to do something great in a small town. Maybe the town should all tip an extra dollar to help them get the barbers pole. This is great clean old fashion fun.

  2. al May 7, 23:58

    Fantastic column, as usual, CB! I know exactly where my next haircut will be!

  3. sqarhed (I'm a halfbreed Swede from Seattle.) February 11, 14:28

    Recently discovered your site. Enjoying it. I’m a former reader, and later a subscriber of the D.U.D., starting around 1974 when I discovered Twain Harte with the gal I married whose dad had the first A-frame cabin in TH built. Traveled the former grades of the Pickering and West Side logging railroads by trail bike and then by pickup with my guide and friend Jeff Gibbons, dec. We downed a lot of Bud but didn’t throw our empties out the windows. Joined the Clampers in ’87 but, being in my eighties, I’m not active in ECV now.
    I still miss the Miners Shack.
    Sorry. That’s a bit more than a comment.

  4. Friends & Neighbors Author February 14, 20:53

    Thanks for your note! So glad you’re enjoying the site. The magazine comes out four times a year and we post most stories online three months after publication … I’m a former Union Democrat reporter, in fact. We knew Jeff, and we miss the Miner’s Shack too!


    Suzy Hopkins

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