Janine Pfarr never dreamed that one day she would own the barbershop where her father and four brothers were regular customers.
Yet that’s just what happened. Ten years ago, Pfarr signed on the dotted line, becoming the third owner of the Beach Barber Shop on Ocean Drive. Opened in 1984, it remains the oldest barbershop in Vero Beach and the only one left on the barrier island. Here, boys and men aged 2 to 102 can get their hair cut just the way they like it, along with a generous dose of TLC. It doesn’t get any better than that.
“I never had a desire to have my own place, but here I am, and I love it,” says Pfarr, eyes bright as she takes in her surroundings. “When I bought the shop, I called my father and told him what I had done; he was so happy. He passed away last year, and I know he’s looking down on me as this place means so much to me.”
A lot happened in Pfarr’s life leading up to the day she stepped into the barbershop in the Portales de Vero shopping center courtyard, and, looking back, it’s almost as if this is where she was meant to be all along.
After graduating from Vero Beach High School, Pfarr pursued a career as a hair stylist. She married, had children, and thrived in her chosen profession.
Then, while working at a local beauty and barber school 15 years ago, she learned of an opening at the Beach Barber Shop. Curiosity nudged, and she decided to check it out. There was a wall of mirrors and a trio of barber chairs as well as two deep sinks. A sitting area with cushioned chairs, a television, and a table with an assortment of magazines invited.
“I liked what I saw and thought it was a great opportunity, so I made the move. I was hired by the former owner, who jokingly told me that one day she was going to retire and I was going to buy the shop,” says Pfarr, who never gave what she considered an off- hand remark another thought.
Until five years later.
“One morning the owner came in and said, ‘Okay, Janine, today’s the day—I’m going to retire and you’re going to be the new owner.’ It took me about half an hour before I made the decision to buy it, and I’ve never had any regrets.
“I like the simplicity of a barber- shop and the fact that we’re all girl barbers. There’s Guylaine, Sue, Tara, and me, and on the days when I’m not here the girls take care of everything, just like the shop was their own.
“I also like the history of a barber- shop,” says Pfarr, opening a book that traces the history of the profession and turning to a page that tells the story of the barber pole. With its spiraling red, white, and blue stripes, it’s a universal sign that says, “Get your hair cut here.”
Almost forgotten, the pole tells of a past when barbers were semi-surgeons as well as dentists, and bloodletting was common. Red symbolizes the blood, white the bandages used to dress wounds, and blue the veins.
While bloodletting is a thing of the past, the barbershop has remained a place where men can get a good hair- cut, socialize, and make friends.
Because the Beach Barber Shop has been at its location for so long, the majority of residents know where it is, but for those new to the area and in need of directions, Pfarr tells them it’s behind the Polo Grill restaurant, a familiar Ocean Drive landmark.
Jack Kemp didn’t need directions a dozen-plus years ago when looking for a trim. His office was practically next door; being within walking distance was a bonus. So was the “comfort factor” he felt the first time he walked in the door. Best of all, he ended up in Pfarr’s chair and liked the way she cut his hair. It didn’t take long for Kemp to become a regular, checking in every four weeks with his favorite stylist.
“I have 80-year-old hair, so it needs special treatment,” the youthful- looking Kemp quips as a smiling Pfarr snips away. “Janine cuts it just the way I like, and when you have someone who knows how to give a good haircut, you keep coming back for more.” That’s just what Kemp has been doing, and he’s not alone. Thanks to Pfarr and the women who work for her, the Beach Barber Shop has an appreciative clientele and a well-deserved five-star rating.
“Even though we do all ages and all kinds of cuts, we find the majority of our clients like a scissors cut, a classic gentleman’s cut,” Pfarr points out.
“I call it the ‘Confidential’ because it doesn’t look like you had a haircut or you need a haircut—it just looks neat, clean, and tailored. It’s my most popular haircut.”
Since the Beach Barber Shop became hers, Pfarr has made a few structural and cosmetic changes and maintained hours of operation and services that respond to clients’ needs. One major change went into effect in March 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions were put into place.
“Before the pandemic we never took appointments; it was all walk-in, so we didn’t know many of our clients’ names. Because of the distancing protocols, we couldn’t have them congregating in the lobby, standing or sitting on top of each other, so we had to take appointments. The great thing is everyone told us they loved it. They wished we had done it years ago. Calling people by name makes a real difference,” Pfarr enthuses.
“For many men, getting their hair cut is a bright spot in their day. A 20-minute experience can mean so much to someone who is widowed or a caretaker. We may be the only time of the day or week they get out of the house to be with other people, and I want them to look forward to coming here. I want them to be well cared for—it’s important.
“Some of our clients have been coming to the Beach Barber Shop long before I even thought about coming here to work, let alone ending up buying it. I don’t know if I would have done it if it were somewhere else. Vero Beach is my home and I love keeping the Beach Barber Shop going. This place is special.”