Leesport barber reaches milestone

Item photo by Shea Singley Claude Ohlinger gives customer Barry George a haircut.
Item photo by Shea Singley Claude Ohlinger sits in his chair at the barber shop.

It was 1964 when Claude Ohlinger began working in a barber shop in Leesport. After nine months at barber school and a 15-month apprenticeship, and just three years Ohlinger owned that barber shop which he still works at today. Claude’s Barber Shop is right off of Route 61 in Leesport and Ohlinger is celebrating 50 years working as a barber in that shop today (Jan. 15).

When asked if he ever imagined reaching 50 years as a barber at the shop, Ohlinger replied, “No, no I didn’t.”

“It’s definitely a milestone,” said Steve Spotts, who works with Ohlinger and who Ohlinger credits as being the reason the shop is still open.

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In the middle of the room, there are two old fashioned barber chairs. One of which Ohlinger said is the original chair that was there when he started. For some time there was only that one chair until he brought Spotts on who has been working with him for around four years now.

“Not much has changed other than the paint and the floor,” said Ohlinger.

The shop is far from quiet. Customers in the chairs and waiting catch up with each other and on what is happening in the area. This is something that Ohlinger believes has led to his success and reaching the milestone . He also added, “having customers come in, I guess.”

“I shoot the bull with the customers,” he said. “Some customers come in and give me a hard time. It’s fun meeting customers. Customers are a lot of fun.” Ohlinger added that they do tend to talk about him when he is not at the shop and he hears about it later.”

Spotts added that “being connected” with the customers is key to having a successful barber shop.

As for the customers, Ohlinger explained that he has a customer that has been coming in for as long as he has been at the shop and others that have been coming for decades. He has even seen quite a few generations. There was a point in time where he would be able to name every single customer and many details about their lives. Thought that may has changed over the years, there is still a connection that is obvious with Ohlinger, Spotts and the customers.

“It’s kind of like the show ‘Cheers,’” said Spotts on the relationship with the customers and how the shop is on a daily basis.

“It was the tootsie rolls,” said one customer, jokingly, as he was leaving as to what kept him coming back. “Above everything else he always gave a good haircut.”

Another customer talked about how Ohlinger gave good flat tops which for him was rare when it came to getting his hair cut.

“I like giving flat tops,” said Ohlinger.

Ohlinger spends less time in the shop than he used to, now working in the mornings but knowing that if the weather is bad or something comes up that the shop is in the capable hands of Spotts.

When pointing out the original pieces of furniture and décor in the shop, such as the child seat that goes over the barber chair that many of the customers probably remember from when they needed it, Ohlinger spoke of when a haircut cost 50 cents and that sometimes he would receive a 25 cents tip, but very rarely would he be giving a dollar and not be asked for the change.

Watching Ohlinger work and interact with the customers, it is clear that he has enjoyed his 50 years as a barber. He may not have wanted a big fuss or people to know about the milestone, but if you happen to see him be sure to congratulate him on reaching 50 years.

About the Author

Shea Singley

Shea Singley is the editor of The Hamburg Area Item. She grew up in Berks County and spent three years at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where she double majored in Creative Writing and English before transferring to Kutztown University where she majored in Professional Writing. Shea graduated from Kutztown University in 2012 and during that time completed an internship in the publication department of a non-profit organization in Washington, DC. She joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in March of 2013 and had enjoyed getting the chance to explore the Hamburg area and meet the readers. Reach the author at ssingley@berksmontnews.com or follow Shea on Twitter: @hamburgitem.