Saturday, February 07, 2009

Celebrating 50 Years ... [Credit: Knapp's News (]

[photo caption: Jerry Rentz cuts Joe Oen's hair]

Editor's Note: This article has been re-posted, in its entirety, from Knapp's News (, which is hosted and maintained by my former Marion Local High School guidance counselor, Ivan Knapp. If there were any factual errors (which there were a few), I corrected the mistakes immediately after the notes in question.

Jerry Rentz Celebrates 50 Years as a Barber

This story is a salute to Jerry Rentz, who has been a barber for 50 years of which 47 years have been in St. Marys, Ohio. He lives in Chickasaw, Ohio, with his wife Carol who has been a beautician for 40 years.

He graduated with the last class of St. John’s High School in Maria Stein in 1958 with the next class to be the first to graduate from the new Marion Local High School in 1959.

His parents were John and Henrietta Rentz. His father died when he (his father, ambiguous) was 55 years old (in 1943, when dad was only 3), and his mother lived to be 95. He grew up on farms first on Guadalupe Road, and then St. Johns Road. His family moved to Chickasaw when he was 6 years old, where he still lives (for clarity, he still lives in Chickasaw, but the grammar needs help). He and his wife have a son, John (Rentz, unecessary), who is a civil (chemical) engineer in Mason, Ohio. His (John's) wife is Jennifer, an elementary education teacher. John works as a contractor for Harris Products Group (formerly JW Harris) / Lincoln Electric Corporation as a Process Engineer.
[Editor's note: John now works for U.S. Playing Card Company / Jarden Corporation in Cincinnati after previous stints for P&G, Kao Brands, and Formica as well.]

He (Jerry) graduated from Andrews Barber School in Columbus and worked as a barber for three years on North Main Street in Lima, Ohio. He came to St. Marys in 1962. He and his brother, Harry, set up the Rentz Barber Shop at 138 East Spring Street. Three years later, they moved across the street to 133 East Spring in 1965 as Wilsons purchased the property across the street at 138 East Spring Street.

Jerry had a half-brother, Gene, who talked him into becoming a barber. His other brother was Harry, with whom he barbered for several years. Harry had a twin sister, Mary Catherine, who died in infancy (Harry barely survived as well).

He and his brother Harry cut hair in St. Marys from 1962 to 1993. Harry died suddenly of a heart attack in September, 1993. He was 55 years old. (odd twist of fate that both grandpa John and uncle Harry died at 55 ... irony, actually, since neither died of the same ailment) Jerry said he remembered the ambulance coming by the golf course where he was playing golf and commenting about the tragedy of someone dying, not knowing at the time it was his brother.

With 50 years as a barber and 47 years in St. Marys, Jerry Rentz got to know thousands of people in both St. Marys and the surrounding area. We estimated he knows better than 50,000 people, many of whom have now passed on. He has been in business on Spring Street in St. Marys longer than anyone except Dick Hudson, the jeweler. Noble and Montague (and Moul) have been in St. Marys a long time but not as long at a Store Front as Hudson and Rentz have.

While I interviewed him, several customers came and went each with their own stories and memories of Jerry Rentz. It was a special year also for customer Joe Oen, who is celebrating 50 years of marriage.

Paul Wein of Spencerville, who had brought his grandson Matt for a haircut, said he liked Jerry because he was dependable and on time. Ron Selby said Jerry Rentz was both personable and efficient.

Jerry said the problem today is that barbers no longer go through a period of time as an intern and (not needed ... that way) miss out on some important training. Sure, you need to know how to cut hair, but you also need to know how to get along with people and how to handle the bookkeeping aspects of the business.

Probably nobody knows more about St. Marys and the surrounding community than Jerry does. He remembers the time one customer grabbed the clippers and took a chunk out of another customer’s beard. “I never let another customer have an opportunity to do that again,” he said.

He remembers the day the Glass Block building burned down. “I always came in the back way along the lake, and I could see the burning some blocks away. When I got up to the east side of town, I could see it wasn’t the barber shop and knew I still had a job. The area smelled for a long time.”

Over 50 years, he has collected a lot of mementos, some of which hang on the wall. One is a picture of a line of men unloading into the lake, with the caption: “Every little bit helps.” Another is a photo of the annual SMAKO, with a couple guys dressed as an elephant crossing the building tops at the corner of Spring Street. Jerry said the rest of the story is that these two actors died from a fall at their next performance down the road. There is also a caption about how important things don’t get done because the barbers are too busy cutting hair.
Jerry knows a lot of the "rest of the stories". He is reminded every year on his birthday of the young kids from Minster killed at a crossroad near Marion Local School on March 7.

He remembers Lovey Dickson, who delivered Penny Savers all over the county from his coaster wagon. And local poet Bob Sampson and Murv, both who lived at the Fort Barbee Hotel.

He has a running account not only of what has happened in St. Marys but also what is happening now. He is familiar with efforts being made to buy up the town and reestablish downtown events. Probably, at some time, every man in the community stops by Rentz Barber Shop.

Jerry Rentz likes people, and people like him. He treats his customers with respect, knowing when to talk and when to shut up. He could write a book, and it would be a good one, full of personal stories with insight and humor.

His hobbies include golf, NASCAR racing, and movies. He said his favorite movie is “Caddy Shack” with Steve Martin (actually, that would be Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray ... come on, Ivan ... it's a CLASSIC! ;-)). On his tombstone, he recommends the words: “I told you I was sick.” (Dad has been saying that for years now ... funny, but not his best material, since he has other qualities besides illness)

Finally, (odd place to use "finally" ... but I digress) he seldomly passes out advice except when someone asked him about going into a partnership. He notes, "I recommended it was not a good idea. I remember, first-hand, the difficulties my brother and I had."

One of the people who had the most influence on his life was his high school football coach, Coach Moore. Jerry played guard on his high school football team. Coach Moore had a way with kids. He left the area to take a job at a high school in St. Joseph, Indiana, and then went on to coach at Notre Dame with the famous Ara Parseghian.

[photo caption: Ron Selby praises Jerry Rentz' hair cut]

Hours at the barbershop are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m; and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Once in a while (more specifically, two to three times per year), he closes the shop and takes a long weekend with his family, who go to Bristol to watch the races. [Editorial note: The "family" includes Dad, Mom, my wife, and me ... occasionally (lately, almost always) we also include our "extended family" of Rosie and Tom Ruetschilling, from Minster, Ohio). This doesn't include non-NASCAR trips, which he and Mom usually take once or twice a year at most.]

No matter where he goes, he knows people. His son John said the same thing one time when they were miles away from home, saying “Dad, no matter where we go, you know someone.” (pretty close to a true quote, actually ... I think I said "you seem to know someone everywhere we go" ... but the meaning is the same ... it has actually happened in Myrtle Beach, Walt Disney World, etc. when we've seen someone on vacation he didn't expect to see) (And) Not only that but he also knows something about everyone and can tell you a story if you have a couple minutes.

Customers drive hundreds of miles for a haircut from Jerry Rentz, as my bother does from Germantown, Ohio. He’s a good barber, and people like him. (a bit redundant ... we get it ... "he's a good barber, people like him, yada-yada-yada ... no offense, Dad ... your ego doesn't need inflation after 50 years)

We congratulate Jerry Rentz on his 50 years as a barber and thank him for the positive impact he has had on thousands of people, including you and me. ("you" is a bit presumptuous ... but, since I was the "you" who read it, obviously I agree)

FINAL Note: I would include the original link to Ivan's photo page, but I had a hard time finding this original content because he has created some massive HTML files on his website. They are very photo-intensive (photography is his side passion, I believe, since he used to take photos at school events, too) but worth your time if you are interested in Mercer / Auglaize Counties in Ohio.

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