End of an era as decades-old barbershop closes its doors in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published October 23, 2020

 Toby Prantera, 82, retires after 62 years of service to the community at Jim’s Barber Shop on Jefferson Avenue.

Toby Prantera, 82, retires after 62 years of service to the community at Jim’s Barber Shop on Jefferson Avenue.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Mayor Kip Walby of St. Clair Shores gets a final cut from Prantera Sept. 23.

Mayor Kip Walby of St. Clair Shores gets a final cut from Prantera Sept. 23.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Mayor Kip Walby said for decades, those seeking the “pulse of the city” had to look no further than Jim’s Barber Shop on a Saturday morning.

First opened at 25109 Jefferson Ave. in 1950 by Jim Whitehead, Toby Prantera began working there nearly a decade later, in 1958, when he was 19 years old.

“My dad had three barbershops. I was going to take over the one in Roseville,” said Prantera, now 82.

But when a job opened up at Jim’s Barber Shop, Prantera decided to go there instead.

“I came here waiting for the one in Roseville to open up. My mom said, ‘Why don’t you see if you can get the job?’” he said.

So he did. He stayed in the small shop, located next to the former Bennett’s Market on the northwest side of Jefferson Avenue at 10 Mile Road, for the next 62 years until closing its doors Sept. 23.

Toby’s son, John Prantera, has been working with his father for decades. Unfortunately, John said, “between COVID and the times getting tougher, it’s just time.”

He said the owners of Baffin Brewing Company, 25113 Jefferson Ave., are purchasing the building, as well as the former coffee shop in the middle of the two storefronts.

“If you don’t sell now, when?” John Prantera said. “With all that going on, it’s a good time to sell. It’s been tough on everybody. Dad doesn’t want to leave.”

John said he plans to go back to work on the family farm in Armada.

Many of the customers at Jim’s Barber Shop have been coming in for decades, as well. John Clausen said he had been getting his hair cut there since 1973. His father and his son also got their hair cut there.

“It’s sad. This is the pulse of the city,” said Mayor Kip Walby, who came to get his last haircut from Toby Sept. 23. “There’s nothing better than a Saturday morning (at the barbershop when it’s) full of St. Clair Shores residents.”

Although the closing is partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walby said it also shows the strength of a newer business in the city, Baffin Brewing Company.

“You’ve got an older person here and a thriving business next door,” he said.

Baffin currently occupies the former Bennett’s Market building.

“Baffin has been involved with two longtime businesses here,” Walby said.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t know where he’ll go to get his next haircut.

“I’m not sure. I know it won’t be the same,” he said.

He recalled bringing his son, Tommy, to the barbershop when he was younger. They’d stop at Variety Donuts on Harper Avenue and then head in for a haircut on a Saturday morning.

It’s the friendships Toby has made and the stories he’s heard over the years that he’ll miss the most.

“The hardest part is going to (be not) seeing all my friends,” Toby said. “I met so many good people. I’m a good listener.”

Now, he said he plans to do a lot of swimming, bike riding and cutting eight acres.

“I’ll come down here, give these guys a haircut that I know,” he added. “I don’t like leaving all these guys. I cut their hair when they (were) babies.”

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