Crystal Lake barber marks 65 years at downtown shop: ‘Where strangers turn into friends’

Some things never change at Joe’s Barber Shop in downtown Crystal Lake.

A basket of candy sits next to the cash register, pop hits from the 1960s play over the speakers, the classic spinning barber pole stands watch outside and Jack McArdle is still giving haircuts.

This year, McArdle, the previous owner of Joe’s Barber Shop, celebrates working for the business for 65 years. At the age of 83, McArdle still cuts hair at the shop three days a week and doesn’t plan on retiring.

McArdle joined the business in 1959 when he was 18 years old. The barbershop was founded by and named after Joseph Scotillo, who died in 2009 at age 87. McArdle became a co-owner in 1986 and then the sole owner of the shop in 1996 after Scotillo’s retirement.

McArdle was Scotillo’s third employee hired and in one year he was the first to work at their new location, where it now stands at 29 N. Williams St. The original location was down the block at 91 N. Williams St.

Owner Kim Eaton, who has been working at Joe’s Barber Shop for 35 years, took over the business about three years ago. She describes working with McArdle as fun and lively.

“It’s just been an honor working with him,” Eaton said.

The Rev. Jerome Koutnik of St. Mary Catholic Church of Huntley has been getting free haircuts at the barber shop for 25 years. McArdle also regularly gives free or discounted haircuts to people who serve as police, firefighters and military members, manager Anna Stopka said.

Joe's Barber Shop staff in downtown Crystal Lake celebrate Jack McArdle's 65 years of service. Michelle Meyer/Shaw Media

“He serves people and helps people in need,” she said.

Koutnik describes McArdle as the “underground mayor of Crystal Lake” because everyone knows him and even previous Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley used to be a regular customer. It’s the community aspect of the shop that keeps Koutnik coming back.

“This is an institution,” he said. “It’s where strangers turn into friends.”

The old-fashioned charm of classic 1950s barbershops is what sets them apart and keeps loyal customers, Stopka said.

McArdle’s display of items honoring armed forces still hang on the wall across from a board filled with historic pictures and newspaper clippings about the shop.

Stopka jokes that when they removed a coat rack from the entrance, customers made comments for a year.

Joe's Barber Shop, located at 29 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake, has been open since 1960. Michelle Meyer/Shaw Media

“Everything — I mean everything — must stay the same,” she said.

That’s McArdle’s only wish for the future of Joe’s Barber Shop: that is remains the same — and stays open. And that his strict rule of no swearing stays in place.

“It’s got to stay a people place,” he said. “People come in here and just start talking to the guy next to them and they’re like friends when they walk out.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.