Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Emily Scott
Step inside a building at 1822 Broadway Ave. in downtown Mattoon, and visitors’ eyes will be drawn to an enormous display of items such as rusty farm tools and hornet nests.
This is where Jerry McDaniel cuts hair.
The exterior of Red’s Barber Shop is painted with multicolored barber poles and a simple title: barber shop.
But as McDaniel tells everyone, coming inside will show that this is no ordinary place.
Hanging from the ceiling and walls of Red’s are dozens and dozens of various tools, guns, toy trains, old barber tools, antlers, and many other items of oddity.
The shop also includes an old cash register and a church pew for waiting customers to sit on.
How did he acquire all of these interesting pieces?
According to McDaniel, it just happened.
“I started out putting up some old-time barber tools,” McDaniel said as he pointed proudly to one section of a wall, which is covered so thickly in materials that it is hard to imagine it ever being empty.
From there, he said people started voluntarily bringing in their stuff.
Started by his father, whom the store is named after, McDaniel began running the shop in 1970.
A Sullivan native, McDaniel took over the shop for his father after working alongside him for 11 years.
Though styles have changed, he has been cutting hair for faithful area customers ever since.
“When longer hair came around, it was a rough deal,” McDaniel said.
Once haircuts came back in style, McDaniel was back in business.
However, he does charge a $5 extra fee for customers with hair below their ears. The fee has raised some comments since McDaniel had to change his simple pricelist, the first change he had made to it in what seemed like ages.
“Sometimes people will come in here that haven’t got a haircut in a year,” said McDaniel, who thought the fee was necessary.
Over the years, McDaniel has helped his customers with more than a haircut.
Being an old-fashioned barber whose main clients are local, McDaniel is there to listen to whatever they have to say.
“You hear all kinds of stuff, but I don’t mind,” McDaniel said.
A good portion of his customers is what you’d call old-timers, but that doesn’t mean McDaniel doesn’t appreciate his younger clientele.
“As long as you’re going to be in business, you have to have younger people,” he said.
The barber boasts that he has served five generations of a family; however, he says he doesn’t have female clients.
“They all wear their hair so long!” he said.
McDaniel doesn’t plan to retire while he’s still in good health.
In the meantime, he plans to continue enjoying his customers. “I’ll always like meeting and talking to people.”