Barbers more like brothers than co-workers — for 50 years

While the world around them has changed — from the city to Roosevelt Boulevard to the shopping center — life seems to have stood still inside the Squire Barber Shop.

No one ever walked in and said: “I like what you guys have done with this place.”

There are two leather green couches in the waiting area. They’re 47 years old, and you’re surprised the small TV that sits in the corner isn’t black and white showing “The Andy Griffith Show.”

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The only things older than the furniture — and as comfortable — are the three guys running the Middletown barber shop.

Squire has been in business for 50 years this year, and all three barbers — Bob Youtsler, Pete Kurtz and Ishmael “Charlie” DeBord — have cut every hair in the place.

Youtsler, 80, left his uncle’s barber shop in Middletown after eight years and opened Squire’s on Jackson Lane on Feb. 6, 1968. At the time, Roosevelt was a cornfield, and there were only a few businesses in the area.

DeBord, 75, who worked with Youtsler for two years in his uncle’s shop, followed. Kurtz, 70, whom Youtsler found at a Dayton barber college, joined the trio.

The band of barbers has been together since.

Only the Rolling Stones have played longer.

No one has had more fun working together or sharing as many laughs. The three co-workers act more like brothers. Over the last 50 years, they have spent more time together than with their wives.

When they weren’t cutting hair six days a week, they were hunting and fishing. When they wanted to get away, they taped a note on the front door: “Closed for plumbing repairs. Be back in three days.”

That was code for Gone Huntin’ to West Virginia.

The three have celebrated birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the births of children and grandchildren, but also have visited each other in the hospital and attended funerals.

The partnership seemed like it was going to end recently after Youtsler returned from being off work for several weeks for a medical reason. He told his buddies he was ready to retire, and he’d give them the shop. There were tears and hugs, of course. But DeBord and Kurtz wouldn’t let Youtsler retire. Instead, they allow him to work in his same front booth and set his own hours.

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“They said, ‘Boss sit down. You ain’t quitting,’” Youtsler said this week. “‘We will never hire a barber, and that chair will sit empty.’ I gave it to them and they gave it back to me. Isn’t that incredible? They think enough of me that they didn’t want me to leave. They really take care of me.”

The key to their success is simple, Youtsler said.

“Treat each other like we want to be treated,” he said. “There was nothing that ever was between us. We always rallied around the flag. If one of us had a problem, we all had a problem. That’s just the way it was.”

About that time, Kurtz finished cutting a man’s hair and walked into the waiting area. Several people were sharing stories. It was hard to separate the tales from factual to fictional.

“Need waders in here,” Kurtz said. “Boots don’t get it.”

Conversation always has been a part of the barber business. Barbers must know how to work clippers, talk, and listen. They’re like bartenders without the alcohol.

Bill Schaefer, 85, one of the owners of Clark Schaefer Hackett CPA, has been a customer at Squire’s for most of his life.

When asked why he has been a regular of Youtsler’s, Schaefer said he’s “happy with his haircuts and listening to him talk. He’s been a good friend over the years. You can get a haircut anyplace. We have a lot of common friends. We have built a great relationship. There are plenty of stories that go on here.”

When the two share stories, never being derogatory is priority No. 1.

“You have a relationship with your barber,” Schaefer said. “With Bob you could always depend that whatever you told him, stayed in his little cubical.”

Right now, the three don’t want to break up the band. No one wants to be John Lennon.

“One day it will come to an end, and that’s hard,” Kurtz said. “We have been together too long. It’s family. Especially when you know time is coming to the end. It’s hard.”

Youtsler, the oldest of the three, realizes they can’t work together forever.

“It’s been wonderful working with them,” he said fighting back tears. “We are down at this end of it, and nobody wants to quit. You can’t be with somebody for 50 years, that many hours a day, and just walk away. We can’t help it because the clock is catching us.”

Father Time waits for nobody. Not even his barber.

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