Ron Kerr sat down this week at Berry's Barber Shop in downtown St. Charles and asked for the usual -- except a little shorter than normal.
That's because after 30 years of getting his hair cut by barber Ron Saltzgiver, he'll have to find a new barber.
"It's always very positive coming here. He does a heck of a job," said Kerr, who first got his haircut from Saltzgiver in preparation for an interview and got the job. The Tri-Cities resident has been coming back ever since. "I figured he bought me some good luck."
Saltzgiver is retiring Saturday and closing his doors after a 45-year run cutting hair for generations of men in the Tri-Cities.
"This has been a barber shop for 103 years. I'm only the third owner," explains Saltzgiver, noting Clarence Berry first opened it in 1910. Berry's son took over after World War II and Saltzgiver bought it in 1968.
Saltzgiver, 68, said growth in St. Charles and in the Tri-Cities helped his shop over the years fend off threats from businesses on Randall Road and survive large construction projects, such as the Main Street reconstruction in the mid-1990s. A good haircut and great customer service kept people coming back.
"Every customer who sits down is a king. That's why I've been successful. I like to treat everyone the same," said Saltzgiver, who recently sold his Elburn home and built a new home with wife, Roberta, just outside Knoxville, Tenn.
The shop is a step back in time to when life was a bit more simple and slower-paced. The red, white and blue barbershop spinning sign greets customers entering from Main Street.
Three chairs, circa 1961, still remain -- the ashtray on the left elbow rest a reminder of different times.
Saltzgiver says he reupholstered each chair three times. He likes the old, square chairs, saying they may be bulky but are sturdier than today's chairs.
Saltzgiver plans to visit his four grown children and nine grandchildren, who live in different states. One daughter lives in New Orleans, so Mardi Gras is on the agenda.
Saltzgiver says he will miss his customers the most.
"They're the greatest people in the world. I've met a lot of good men, heard a lot of great stories," he said. "The nicest (retirement) gift is them showing their appreciation for me. It's not money or a bottle of booze."
Ron Leone of St. Charles has been getting his hair cut from Saltzgiver since 2004. The two instantly connected because they are both Vietnam veterans.
"This is old-fashioned type of service here. This is what this county was built on. This business is over 100 years old," Leone said. "This is old-time Americana. There's a lot to be said for that."
Stability of knowing the same barber was always behind the chair also helped.
"I know when I come here, you're going to be here," Leone said as Saltzgiver snipped away. "This country was built on the backs of small businesses like these. Unfortunately, they're a dying breed."
Saltzgiver said he tried to find a buyer for Berry's, but to no avail.
"It's been a great run. I can't say any more than I can about how good St. Charles and the customers have been to us -- that's the biggest thing," Saltzgiver said. "I guess you can call it bittersweet. I was a little hesitant about retirement. But the closer it gets, the more enthusiastic I am getting -- but sadder, too."
Saltzgiver pauses from completing Leone's cut to answer the phone.
"We don't open 'til 8 (a.m.) but I'll squeeze you in at 7:30. That's the only time I can do it," he said, customer-friendly to the end.