Customers reminisce at Time Corners Barber Shop, while that living relic of another era tells stories of its own.
The pop machine that once stood alongside Broadway, the many straight razors from many owners, the barber chairs that beckon back seven decades, the rotating barber pole, the wall-to-wall mirror, and the IU, Komets and assorted memorabilia. These all reply in kind when someone mentions the dad or grandpa who first brought them to the shop before short hair fell from favor almost 60 calendars ago.
And yet — for the most part — it is one story, the continuing story of a family of barbers. According to senior barber Phil Luginbill, Don Baker opened the shop in 1965 as part of “13 little businesses” at Covington Road and U.S. 24. Luginbill came on board in 1969 and bought the shop late in 1973. For a time, the shop operated from a trailer. “There was no place to rent out here in the Time Corners area, there was nothing available at the time,” Luginbill said.
That sparked the move to what is now Westland Centre, no more 1,000 feet across the highway. “So I talked with Ron Stoller who was going to build this place,” Luginbill said. “I went to see Ron at his place on 930. And he said, ‘Well it’s going to be a year or so before I get this place built.’ So I rented a drafting trailer — like they use for highway construction — and I took all the drafting equipment out and put the barber chairs in there. We got our water from Lucky Steer, and in ‘75 there was nothing but sand out here and they just put a visqueen curtain up. I was the first one here. I was the only one in the mall and I’ve been here ever since.”
To locate the shop on a map of 2021, one needs to know that Westland Centre lies in the southwest corner of U.S. 24 and Getz Road. That corner flies the signs of Umi sushi restaurant, Mitchell’s Bar and Grill, Franciscan Center Family Thrift and a few other enterprises. Enter the area off Getz Road, and the barber shop awaits.
Now back to 1975.
“That’s when it was U.S. 24,” Luginbill said of that locale before its commercial era. “It wasn’t Jefferson Boulevard. The old State Police post was right where Mike’s Car Wash is, and as far as you looked it was houses and trees. Dale’s Drive-in was right there, on the peak of Covington and Old 24.”
In fact, it wasn’t even Fort Wayne in those days, just Allen County.
The nearby building that now houses Canterbury School’s Lower School was the Wayne Township Grade School.
But the stage had been set for what was to come; U.S. 24 was a 4-lane road even before Luginbill gave his first haircut there.
“Everything’s gotten huge since then,” Luginbill said.
Many barbers have worked at those three vintage chairs. Danny Platt still takes his turn. Meanwhile, Luginbill’s daughter Kami Hartman and her son Nathan Harman have joined the rotation. Phil charged $2.50 for his first haircut in 1969. The rate was $8 when Kami joined in 1989, and $12 when Nathan joined in 2013. Today a haircut costs $16, which Luginbill said is a competitive rate among Fort Wayne shops. “Most of them charge that much if not more,” he said.
Customers still warm to the shop’s atmosphere, which could be appropriated at any moment for a 1960s TV show.
“They would shoot the breeze a little. It was a good gathering place,” Luginbill said. He tries to be a good listener. “You sell your personality mostly,” he said.
Talking with people is her favorite part of the job, Kami said.
But lingering and chatting isn’t as common as it once was, Luginbill said.
“Not right now,” Kami said of the COVID-19 restrictions. “We’d have to kick you out.”
“It’s changed a lot,” Luginbill said. “I remember when I got started dad used to bring the boys in down through the years, and dads still come in. But mom usually takes the kids to a beauty shop. That’s changed a bunch. But there are some kids that come in that are the third or fourth generation.”
Haircuts, too, have changed over the year. Of course the music industry’s British Invasion popularized longer hair. That style eventually faded, but Luginbill said it took a fair share of Fort Wayne’s barbers in its wake.
The razor shave is gone, too. Luginbill said he had about five customers who still counted on a shave and then — in the span of months — they were gone.
Today those razors are arrayed as ornaments on the wall behind the barbers. “We’ve had customers give those straight razors to us, and some of them were my grandfathers’,” Kami said. The U.S. military razor strop is also a family possession.
“We’ve accumulated a lot,” she said. “Everybody wants the Coke machine and the Budweiser clock.”
That pop machine once stood in front of a gun shop opposite Zoli’s Family Restaurant & Lounge, 2418 Broadway. It was a Pepsi machine in those days. After it was vandalized, Luginbill said, it made its way to the barber shop. A bottle of whatever cost a quarter back then. Today the machine is set at the bargain rate of 75-cents.
The three barber chairs are just as important to the appeal. One dates from 1953. Those models haven’t been manufactured for a while. Nate said his grandfather still repairs them; after all, what are the options?
It’s been a tough few months, the family agreed in a December interview.
Some of the “regulars” have been staying home, in virtual quarantine, and haven’t stopped by for months.
“But when they come in they look like hippies in the ‘60s,” Phil said.
“It’s a roller coaster right now,” said Kami. “We’re still getting people here who have not been here since last February, and I can think of two or three who have not left their home.”
Like other barber shops and salons, Time Corners Barber Shop was closed altogether for two months early in the pandemic.
Barbering has been Luginbill’s life’s work. Kami Hartman worked at a salon for a while before picking up the Time Corners scissors 30 years ago. Nathan Hartman also shares his time with the military reserve. And on any given day you might find one or more of them at their other shop, Hair Cut Center in Decatur.
“You can’t call in sick. They know when you’re lying,” Kami said of working with family.
“We all get along,” Nathan said. “I’ve enjoyed working here. I’ve enjoyed barbering. It keeps us busy.”