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BERNIE’S BARBERSHOP: ‘If you can grow it, we’ll cut it’ - Ocean City Sentinel: Community

BERNIE’S BARBERSHOP: ‘If you can grow it, we’ll cut it’

Ocean City business marks 50th anniversary combining the tried and true with new for all ages

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Posted: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 1:08 pm

OCEAN CITY – As Marc Reider prepares for the summer season at Bernie’s Barbershop, he spoke with the Ocean City Sentinel about the tradition of Bernie’s, his journey to becoming a barber and shop-owner, and the joy of a hot shave.

Bernie’s Barbershop in Ocean City is celebrating its 50th year of business in 2015.

Reider took over as owner of the shop, located at 937 Asbury Ave., after two years working under owner Lora Stankiewicz. He’s preparing for the anniversary celebration and the summer season.

“We’re going to be doing some remodeling,” Reider said. “We’re going to put some banners up out front for the anniversary.  We’re freshening everything up. I bought it a year ago, and I haven’t done a whole lot of changing yet. 

“The pictures on the walls are mine; slowly my brain is starting to spill out around here. It’s getting there. It’s the first time I’ve owned a shop so I’m learning as I go.”

One thing he learned quickly is the loyalty of the clientele, who appreciate the quality of their work as well as the atmosphere.

“The people keep coming back,” Reider said, “because we’ve always been able to give really good haircuts and the barbershop experience as it was when it first opened. That was really important to me when I took over the place – keeping the way it felt on day one when Bernie had it.”

In fact, Reider said, traditional barbershops are gaining again in popularity.

“There’s been a resurgence in barbershops, especially the last five years,” he said. “Guys are coming back, they’re tired of sitting in beauty salons next to a girl who’s getting a perm. We feel awkward there.”

Bernie’s strives to be a place where all feel welcome and comfortable.

“Some of the barbershops men go to tend to cater to younger clientele,” he explained, “and they feel a bit intimidated there too. Guys like my dad or your dad go in there, and they don’t know what to ask for. We try to be friendly not only to young kids who want fades or hard parts or lining, but we also try to be very friendly to my dad’s generation and my grandfather’s generation.

“If you can grow it, we’ll cut it.”

He took an unusual path to his career.

“I went to the University of Delaware and studied criminal justice,” said Reider, who also played defensive end for the Blue Hens. “I thought I wanted to be a cop. After graduating, it never really worked out. I worked for Marriott doing sales, and the whole time I was doing this, I was cutting hair for my friends on the side. I was cutting hair since I was in high school. It was something I did as a hobby, but it was never something that was supposed to be my career.”

He smiled as he recalled the day he realized what he wanted to do for a living.

“I was standing there cutting my friend’s hair and wondering what I wanted to do with my life and I said, ‘God, I wish there was something I could do that I enjoy, that doesn’t feel like work.’ And he was looking at me saying, ‘Are you serious, man? Because you’re a smart guy and you’re sounding really stupid right now.’”

It wasn’t easy from there, however.

“I had to learn nails, perms, everything – I really didn’t like it,” he said. “I ended up being the barber for Resorts and Taj Mahal and Caesar’s. After being shuffled from one casino to the next, I realized that wasn’t going to be the environment for me.”

Then he found the place he had been looking for all along.

“I looked in the paper one day and saw Bernie’s was hiring,” said Reider. “I called Lora up and she hired me right away over the phone. She asked if I could do straight-razor shaves, which not a lot of people can do around here, especially the chains. They won’t shave with a straight razor. They say it’s because they’re not allowed and they have to use a special razor. Really they just don’t want to do it. There’s actual skill required to it and it’s scary to someone who’s never done it. But once you’ve learned how to do it, it’s actually the easiest thing we do.”

He spent two years working under Stankiewicz before buying the business from her.

“It was important to her to sell it to someone who was going to keep it relatively the same,” Reider said. “She knew that if I was going to buy a shop, it was going to be just like this. This was the kind of place I was looking for since I got out of school.”

The old and the new come together in not just the atmosphere, but even the hair styles.

“A lot of the new styles are old styles,” said Reider. “I have pictures on the walls of the 1920s and 1930s. Those hairstyles, or variations on them, are back now. Everything old is new again. Beards, for example, this is the first beard I’ve grown. Ten years ago you would have looked like a crazy person, but trends change.”

Reider then used an unusual word to discuss beard styles.

“I don’t want to say ‘Duck Dynasty’ is the way to go,” he said, “but ‘lumbersexual’ is actually the term they use for guys who are full-bearded but they take care of it. They clean themselves up and it’s a manly tradition that has become new again. So it’s been fun and it’s been interesting.”

He described the simple joy of a straight razor shave.

“If John Wayne was going to have a facial, this is what he would get,” said Reider. “It’s 30y minutes that are set away for a guy to just relax and take care of himself. We start off with a hot towel. Then we use three different moisturizers and shaving creams to soften the beard. Really, when you’re done, you wish you could do it over again.”

The pleasant experience starts with cocoa butter and a hot towel to raise the hairs. As Reider explained, facial hair has the tensile strength of copper wire. This helps protect the skin and raise the hair for a more comfortable shave. (This writer, who had to try it, notes: “The shave was enjoyable, very close, and I left feeling like a million bucks.”)

“It’s just relaxing, and there are very few things set up for guys to relax like that,” Reider said. “Most of the time we’re running around. Women get to go to the spa, and some men do. But your average construction worker is not going to the spa on a Saturday afternoon, or going to get his toes pedicured. This is one thing for a guy to come lay back and treat himself.”

Now, Reider couldn’t see himself doing anything else.

“It’s doing something that doesn’t feel like a job,” he said. “I get to come in, hang out, talk about sports, essentially B.S. all day and enjoy myself. I don’t have to work.”

Bernie’s Barbershop is open seven days a week.

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