Thursday, February 7, 2013
White Oak Barber Shop is not your typical hair salon. In this shop, the No. 1 rule is “no girls allowed.”
Actually, women are allowed into the shop — half of the barbers on staff are female — but according to owner Merritt Potter, a man needs a place made just for him to get a quality haircut. For the past seven years, that is what he has been offering to clientele in Red Bank.
That clientele base is about to expand, as Potter recently officially opened his second location of White Oak Barber Shop on Lee Highway, complete with a ribbon cutting, remote broadcast by Talk Radio and celebratory bagels.
“A man’s not going to go to the spa, but there’s nothing sissy about a straight razor,” said Potter. “It’s a different atmosphere in here than in a salon. There are a lot of salons, but few quality barber shops. When barbers went into unisex hairstyling, it really hurt the barber profession. But across the U.S., barbers are growing again.”
The menu of services at his barbershop ranges from haircuts to beard trims to hot-lather shaves. The three barbers that work in the new location have all received their Master Barber License or Cosmetology license and have been trained by Potter himself, who began his cutting-edge career in the 1960s as a barber in the Navy.
With no previous training, Potter would visit barber shops when the ship was at port, meticulously watching their process and practices. He later went to school to receive his Master Barber License and also went to cosmetology school, working as a guest stylist for Redken hair shows in the 1980s. Over the years, he says he’s learned a lot.
“A good barber knows by looking at a man [what he wants in a haircut]. A man wants a good, well-balanced haircut that lasts longer,” he said. “If cut properly, a haircut can last six weeks.”
The White Oak Barber Shop on Dayton Boulevard has been in existence since 1932, passing through the hands of two different owners until Potter bought it on a whim in 2006. He said that whim has turned out to be an excellent decision.
“I feel blessed that in the short time I’ve been in business it has been successful,” he said. “But then again, if you’re breathing, your hair is growing.”
Potter said he is starting to see fathers bringing their small sons into the shop — “They always say ‘I grew up going to a barbershop and that’s what I want my son to do’” — and he has even had the privilege of seeing three generations sit in his barber’s chair.
“I feel like this is a large market over here, and this type of barbershop is not offered [in the area],” said Potter. “The men, I think, deserve a barbershop.”
To learn more about both locations of White Oak Barber Shop, visit www.whiteoakbarbershop.com. The website has biographies of each of the barbers, including Potter, and, because the shop doesn’t accept appointments but operates on a walk-in system, a webcam so clients can check to see if the shop is busy.