Keeping tradition alive

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Published on June 30, 2010 with No Comments

Tenth Street Barbershop welcomes local barber of over 50 years
by Krystal Vivian

To most people, haircuts are simply haircuts. But to John Pfeifer, haircuts have helped him raise three kids with his wife of 53 years. With a razor and a pair of scissors, Pfeifer has shaped his life in Hobart.
Originally from St. John, Pfeifer went to the Molar Barber School in Chicago. His uncle, also a barber, encouraged him to be a barber as well, and Pfeifer thought he would always like it. He wouldn’t have to work midnights and it would be a clean job.

After graduating in 1956, he worked for a few shops in the Chicago area until he was able to get his Indiana barber license in 1958.

“I wanted to work in Indiana, because I was from here,” Pfeifer said.

He came to work for Kenny’s Barber Shop on Third Street by Lake George in Hobart. After six months, Pfeifer left to work for Earl’s Barber Shop on Main Street. In December 1964, Pfeifer opened up his own shop, John’s Barber Shop, on Third Street.

It wasn’t hard for Pfeifer to be successful in running his own barbershop.

“Once you get established in an area for six years, and you break off on your own, that’s how you build your clientele,” Pfeifer said. “They follow you, and I had a following I brought to the barber shop.”
In 2000, Pfeifer brought John’s Barber Shop to Main Street, and enjoyed another 10 years of success. Now that Pfeifer is older, he decided to just work part time, which has brought him to the Tenth Street Barber Shop in Hobart on June 1.

Pfeifer loves the barbering business for many reasons, but his favorite part is the people he meets on a daily basis.
“I’ve met different types of people from all walks of life. I’ve made friends with a lot of people,” Pfeifer said. “You hear a lot of good stories and clean jokes. Things that will make you laugh, things about people’s lives.”
He has many customers who have been coming to see him for over 40 years. When they were in high school and college, Pfeifer gave haircuts to Bob Kuechenberg and his brother, Rudy Kuechenberg. Both brothers played in the NFL. Bob Kuechenberg helped the Miami Dolphins win the 1972 and 1973 Super Bowls. Rudy played in the NFL for five seasons total, playing for the Chicago Bears as well as the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, and Atlanta Falcons.
In the past 54 years as a barber, Pfeifer has seen trends fade in and out. In the 1960s, Pfeifer went back to hair styling school for men to learn how to cut the longer Beatles-inspired locks that men began sporting around that time, as well as learn how to dye hair. Pfeifer also sold wigs. The style moved back to shorter hair in the 1980s, and he says it hasn’t changed much since.

At the Tenth Street Barbershop, Pfeifer and his fellow barbers are maintaining tradition. The shop provides haircuts and razor shaves on the neck and ears at a competitive price in a blue-collar area.
“People want decent haircuts,” Pfeifer said. “We give them decent haircuts.”

The barbers in the shop won’t dye hair, but they will make arrangements to travel around the area to give haircuts to people who are unable to make it to the barber shop for some reason.

The shop itself, located across from Joan Martin Elementary School, is small and comfortable. There are three chairs where customers can sit and relax as one of four barbers give them the haircuts they ask for. There is also a row of chairs where customers can sit while they wait for John, Shelly, Keith, or Sam to call their name next.

The walls are decorated with shaving mugs and classic old barbershop signs. And of course, no barber shop is complete without the red and blue barber pole just outside the door.

The Tenth Street Barber Shop is owned by Shelly Gilliana, who took over the shop in November 2006. Previous to her ownership, only one barber worked at the shop. Now, Gilliana has three other barbers besides herself that work in the shop and share her love for cutting hair.

Like all barbershops, Tenth Street Barber Shop is closed Sundays and Mondays. An age old tradition, this gives barbers a two-day weekend and still providing a service to the community on Saturdays, which tend to be busy in the business.
The barbershop accepts walk-ins as well as scheduled appointments on certain days that vary from barber to barber. For more information, go online to or call the Tenth Street Barber Shop at (219) 942-5053.

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