|Barber won’t snip family ties|
|Wednesday, April 18, 2012|
By KEN BECK
The barber, 32, even dresses old school from head to toe in black tennis shoes, black pants, white shirt, black vest, burgundy tie and a gray fedora hat. And his shop holds a myriad of antiques, curios and other items that date back to the first half of the 20th century.
However, his tightest connection to yesteryear might go unnoticed unless you’re a Mt. Juliet native who remembers that this long, block building formerly housed Oldham’s Drive In Market, a business operated by Martinez’s grandparents, Ralph and Ailleen Oldham, from 1954 into the early 1990s.
This afternoon, the master of scissors, comb, razor and clippers gives Mt. Juliet High School senior Michael Hailey a trim. As the barber plies his craft, Hailey keeps his eyes closed while nestled in the 1950s vintage Koken barber chair. At the far end of the shop, an early 1960s episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” plays on the TV screen.
Martinez, who earned his barber diploma via Masters Barber College in Old Hickory about 6 or 7 miles up the road, opened his shop last September after laboring for a decade at such jobs as a union iron worker, waiter, construction worker and Realtor.
The economics of the building may have driven him to start his business here but it was also a place holding a treasure trove of childhood memories.
“I’ve always wanted to do something here, and I just thought it’d be a great location for a barber shop,” said Martinez, who practically grew up in the house his grandparents built behind their market. Today, the barber and his wife Tammy, a hairdresser, call that house their home.
“I’d been trying to find something to do here. When I decided to become a barber, I knew—that’s it!—barber shop!” said the 1998 graduate of Mt. Juliet High School, who was born in Tulsa, Okla., and raised here from the age of 5.
Martinez will give a haircut to anyone, well, almost anyone.
“Anybody that walks in the door, I won’t say no. Well, there were a few ladies whose hair was so complicated, I did tell them no,” he admitted.
What he enjoys most about his profession? “The social aspect, talking to people and meeting new people.”
His hair-cutting shop sits on the south side of Highway 70 about 150 yards west of West Elementary School. An 8-foot-tall, swirling red, white and blue barber pole advertises his trade. He also operates a U-Haul dealership on the site.
A hunter and fisherman during his free time, Martinez’s interior-decorating skills reflect his other hobby of scouring flea markets for ancient items.
Old farm implements, tools and agriculture-related memorabilia hang from the ceiling or are tacked to the walls of his barber shop. These items include hand augers, a crosscut saw, a wheat cradle, mule collars, a pitchfork, lantern, milk cans, iron skillets, flour bags, old saddles, small oilcans and a box of Warren County Twists plug tobacco.
Three signs spell out philosophies that Martinez either dreams about or espouses: “Gone Fishing,” “Eat Sleep Hunt” and “Sit a spell.”
He said of the décor, “A lot of shops nowadays are unisex. I wanted a place geared more toward just men. I’ve always liked antiques, gone to flea markets and garage sales. So I figured on making it like an old, classic barber shop.”
Martinez’s clients have taken a liking to the environment as well.
Lebanon’s Matt Casto discovered the place a few months back while driving along Lebanon Road to Mt. Juliet.
“I was intrigued by it. Once I went inside, I found out that he was trying to keep it kind of classic style, and, of course, his outfit is classy,” said Casto, who has since had three haircuts at the hands of Martinez.
“He’s fantastic,” he said of the barber. “You can tell he takes his time and pays attention to what he’s doing. He wasn’t rushed or hurried and was real personable throughout the haircut. I absolutely will continue going. I like that it’s a place where guys can come in and talk or hang out.”
Of course, when Martinez’s grandparents operated their market, it, too, was a classic of sorts. They sold everything from beer and cigarettes to groceries, bread, pinto beans, ice cream and gasoline.
“It was like the general store. It had a little bit of everything,” Martinez reminisced. “There was always a group of loafers hanging out, talking about this and that. A kid could come in here and get a Popsicle or candy bar or Coke in a bottle. It was great.”
Lebanon’s Ronnie Andrews, 57, also carries fond memories of Oldham’s Drive In Market from when he was a boy in the early 1960s. Andrews and his siblings grew up on Highway 109 and thought nothing of hoofing it the 3 or 4 miles to the store for sweet treats and cold drinks.
That would have been a couple of decades before Martinez was born, but he has heard about the way it used to be from his mother and his senior customers.
“When my mom grew up here, it was a lot smaller town, and they knew everybody. Even today, a lot of old-timers come in. That’s neat. I learn a lot,” he said.
Of course, some of the old stories, true stories, are not pleasant. Oldham was robbed and shot two or three times at the market, and once he was shot and locked inside the walk-in cooler.
Of his late grandfather, whom he called Ralph, Martinez said, “He was a great guy, a friendly guy who knew everybody in town and helped people. Everybody says he always had his hat on cocked sideways.”
While the aura of his grandparents marinates his business space, Martinez said, “It was a no-brainer: Open up a barbershop, there’s a busy highway outside. People are gonna come in here and get a haircut.
“It’s nice to know I was not off my rocker when I built this. It’s going all right. People are coming in, and they really like the place,” said the friendly City Limits barber, who works in the present, surrounded by bountiful reminders of the past.