Wednesday, January 17, 2018
News Roundup

RJ's Barber Shop lends a hair of Mayberry to Town 'N Country

TOWN 'N COUNTRY

Hair flies, but time stands still at RJ's Barber Shop.

No ferns, mood lighting or other trappings of modern salons greet walk-ins. Just a row of barber chairs on a terrazzo floor, dusty display of imported-beer bottles and a bunch of guys.

Etsie Clayton, 60, the newest member of the staff with 14 years at the shop, called "RJ's barber stylist," is usually the only woman in the room.

Owner Richard Jorge bought the shop at 7744 W Hillsborough Ave. 47 years ago. The occasional female customer comes in, but just for a cut — this is no place for fancy styles, perms or coloring. Just a simple clip with a straight razor trim at the back of the neck, the way they've been doing since the mid 1960s.

It costs $12. Cash or check only, please.

"This is a barbershop,'' says customer David Ferraro. "This is what it used to be. This is the way it should be.''

Sports, current events and a good bit of banter dominate the conversation. On this weekday afternoon, Tavian Woods, an 8-year-old waiting to have his long black curls sheared into a Mohawk, provides the entertainment.

An ardent fan of quarterback Tim Tebow, Tavian shouts, "Tebow mania! Tebow is awesome!'' He drops to one knee in the famous Tebow prayer pose, eliciting guffaws from the crowd.

Another barber had just opined that "Tebow stinks,'' an attempt to get a rise out of Tavian.

Tavian looked at him like he was crazy.

"Did he say Tebow stinks?'' piped in Jorge, taking up the defense. "Let's get him!''

It's never boring at RJ's, customer Ramon Perez says. "Sometimes you get a crowd, and no subject's off-limits. If you get offended, maybe this is not the place.''

Perez, 48, has been a customer since the early 1990s. "I like the service. I feel pampered when I come in,'' he says. He particularly likes the straight razor trim at the end of the haircut.

• • •

Emilio Lefler, 15 months old, got his first haircut from Richard last month, making him the third generation of Lefler men to have their locks snipped at RJ's. The toddler's grandpa, also named Emilio Lefler, started coming to RJ's more than 40 years ago, when he ran a pharmacy nearby. At 83, he still gets his hair cut there.

Though little Emilio momentarily looked on the verge of tears, he held it together as Jorge worked.

"He was so delicate with his hands that basically my child didn't even know he was getting a haircut,'' James Lefler says. "My baby didn't even cry. And if he's not happy, he'll let you know.''

Jorge, a thin man of 69 with a goatee and full head of graying hair, tried to retire two years ago, after suffering a pulmonary embolism, but he hated just sitting around the house.

So now he comes in mainly to sit and talk with customers, though he'll pick up the scissors if it gets busy.

"I like hanging around here,'' he says. "A lot of times there will be three or four guys from the old days, and we'll be talking about drag racing and this and that and the other, and it's just great.''

• • •

Most of the barbers have been together longer than many families — Jimmy Jorge, Richard's brother, 37 years; Michael Rutch, 28 years; and Tony Bruno, 20 years.

"All of us kind of get on good,'' says Clayton, adding that it's a "crazy bunch.''

"That helps (me) feel at home.''

Rutch, 63, says the job is hard on the feet; on a busy day, he figures he takes about 10,000 steps. "The older you get, the harder it is.'' The upside is the emotional payoff.

"You become friends with your customers. You know their families. I'm doing the children of children of children.''

Rutch started out at a unisex hair salon but prefers the simplicity of men's cuts. "Women are a little more picky than men,'' he notes. He has buzzed crew cuts, squared flat-tops, trimmed Beatles styles and moved on to fades and shaved heads.

When he first started cutting, he says, a clean-shaven head was a neo-Nazi political statement.

"Now, there's nothing that's not in style.''

Styles evolve, but RJ's remains rooted in the past.

"Hardly a week goes by that somebody doesn't come to the door and say, 'Geez, a good old-fashioned barbershop,' '' says Jorge. "One guy came in and said this is like going back to Mayberry RFD.''

Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.

Comments
Navy files criminal charges in connection with deadly ship collisions, including negligent homicide

Navy files criminal charges in connection with deadly ship collisions, including negligent homicide

Washington PostFive Navy officers involved in ship collisions that killed a combined 17 sailors last year will face a variety of criminal charges, including negligent homicide, the service announced Tuesday night.The individuals include Cmdr. Bryce B...
Updated: 5 hours ago
The Daystarter: Freeze watch is in effect; Steve Martin and Martin Short visit Friday; and no, lottery winner is not giving away his money.

The Daystarter: Freeze watch is in effect; Steve Martin and Martin Short visit Friday; and no, lottery winner is not giving away his money.

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• The cold is back Tampa Bay. Wednesday will see highs in the 60s and then it gets worse from there, dropping down to the 20s and 30s overnight. The region is under a free watc...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Local crabber feels like it’s a ‘lucky’ life

Local crabber feels like it’s a ‘lucky’ life

A fading gray-and-white float bobs in the river on a recent morning, and Gus Muench moves toward it, navigating his flat-bottomed boat in the shallow water. After he stops the engine, he uses a hooked pole to pull the float closer and grabs the line ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff, feds to announce changes to immigration detention policies

Pinellas sheriff, feds to announce changes to immigration detention policies

Law enforcement and federal immigration officials will announce today new efforts around the use of immigration detainers.The detainers, or requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that local jails hold onto people suspected of being in...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

It’s barely been a year since Steve Martin and Martin Short last brought their roadshow to town. But there was never a doubt in their minds they’d be back."We thought — and I seriously mean this — we’ve got to play Florida more." Martin said in a pho...
Published: 01/17/18
With help from neighbors, Dunedin  food pantry is moving to bigger digs

With help from neighbors, Dunedin food pantry is moving to bigger digs

BY PIPER CASTILLOTimes Staff WriterDUNEDIN — It has been only two years since the board of directors began operating Dunedin Cares from Faith Lutheran Church, inside a 600-square-foot community room. Already volunteers have handed out upwards of 100,...
Published: 01/17/18
We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

I sat at my desk eating chunked pineapple straight out of the can, reading about how much fruit and vegetables we should all be eating every day: 1 1/2 to two cups of fruit, 2 1/2 to three cups of vegetables, at a minimum, per the United States Depar...
Published: 01/17/18

High school scoreboard for Jan. 16

Tuesday’s scoreboardGirls soccerLennard 8, Blake 0Osceola 1, Clearwater Central Cath. 0Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 4, Bishop McLaughlin 0
Updated: 6 hours ago
Career Q&A: What to do when your boss is stealing

Career Q&A: What to do when your boss is stealing

Q: I strongly suspect that my boss is stealing from our employer. As the property manager for this apartment complex, she handles all payments, deposits and other financial matters.A few weeks ago, I accidentally discovered some suspicious discrepanc...
Updated: 7 hours ago

St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 8 hours ago