This business endures by staying the same

Barber doing haircut at Jay's Barbershop. (Zhu Zhu/MEDILL)

By Zhu Zhu

There is a barbershop at 1579 Maple Ave. in Evanston that’s been there since 1925. It’s long-lasting because the owner (who doesn’t work there) keeps it a friendly “family-type” business.

It is Jay’s Barbershop. Jay Rogosich started there 52 years ago after he graduated from barber school. Rogosich passed away in July 2011 at 64. The city honored Rogosich with a street sign in August to recognize his efforts in helping people to look their best for 46 years.

After that, his wife Janet Rogosich took over.

“I just want to keep the legacy of my husband. We knew each other when we were ten. When he was working there, the barbershop was always overwhelming,” Rogosich said.

Rogosich said she wanted to keep the barbershop in a simple way, just as it was when her husband owned it.

Ron Fleischer is now 61 and had been going to Jay’s Barbershop for over 30 years when Jay Rogosich was still there. He said that “the vibe is classic barbershop–there’s sports on the TV, and customers debating the latest moves of the local franchises. Car magazines and People are on the shelf. The daily newspaper is around, and sports paraphernalia is on the bulletin board. The buzz can veer to politics and world affairs, and the regulars tend to be quite an aware group of people.”

Customers don’t come in for haircuts alone, they come for friends, said one of the current barbers, Raafat Alkinany.

As for the shop’s revenue, Janet Rogosich said she doesn’t really care about it. She just wants to keep the business going.

“I don’t care how much money I earn. I don’t count it either. The price for a haircut is $17. I don’t want to raise the price or expand my business,” Rogosich said.

The only price at Jay’s Barbershop. (Zhu Zhu/MEDILL)

The price hasn’t changed for 30 years, Alkinany said. “The number of customers we have every day are different. We normally have more people on Friday and Saturday, so we have three barbers working on these two days and two barbers working on the other days,” he said.

“The average number of customers is probably about 15” a day, Alkinany said.

They appreciate the low price. Data from mobile payment company Square showed that the average haircut for men costs $28 nationwide, $44 for women, in 2014.

“Got a haircut and a beard trim for $17. Considering the ‘budget’ places like Hair Cuttery, GreatClips, etc. are all raising their prices, this is a great option,” said Perter Horner, a customer.

The shop formerly offered more than just haircuts.

“The price for a haircut in 1950-something was $2, for children under 12, $1.50, for shaving, $1.25, for a manicure, $2, etc. We offered a list of services,” Alkinany said.

Old prices at Jay’s Barbershop. (Zhu Zhu/MEDILL)

But nowadays, there’s only a haircut service in the shop. “We want to keep it simple,” said Victor Ciura, a barber who has been working there for 39 years.

The barbershop accepts only cash, just as when it was set up 92 years ago.

“It is cash only. I did not realize until after, and he refused to accept my phone as collateral. Walked to an ATM and came back five minutes later. Couldn’t have been nicer about it,” said a customer named Peter.

“Cash Only” Sign at Jay’s Barbershop. (Zhu Zhu/MEDILL)

Another customer, Stagger Lee, chimed in, “Short and sweet. If you are a man seeking a great haircut this is the place. The place is simple. Probably hasn’t changed in 50 years. It’s the barbershop you remember from when you were a kid.”

Photo at top: Tradition prevails at Jay’s Barbershop in Evanston. (Zhu Zhu/MEDILL)