VACAVILLE — Joe Lopez, the iconic barber on Main Street in Vacaville, might be 87, but that hasn’t stopped him from working.
Retirement? That’s a big “no.”
“I just never thought about it,” he said, as he gave longtime customer Gary Rodriguez a haircut.
Lopez, a Vacaville native, is at work four days a week, about 10 hours a day at Barber Joe’s, the barbershop in downtown Vacaville that his father established in 1939. Back then, it was known as Joe’s Barber Shop.
Lopez worked with his father in the barbershop for decades. That tradition is carried on today with Lopez’s son, another Joe Lopez, 59.
That’s three generations of Joes who are part of about five generations of barbers who originated in Spain, cutting hair as roving barbers going from village to village. All the Joes have different middle names, so there are no distinguishing “senior” or “junior” tags following the names, even though that’s what it’s developed into, said the younger Lopez.
“I’ve never been Joe Junior until I came to work here. Now I’ve been here so long, that’s how people know me,” he said.
The younger Lopez, like his father, went to Moler Barber College and landed in Barber Joe’s as a barber at age 26. That was after a five-year stint as a pipefitter in an attempt to break the barber hold on the generations of Joes and Lopezes.
He smiled and said, “I reconnected with an old friend who reminded me that I never wanted to do this.”
His initial impetus was two hairstylist sisters who worked with dad and made more money than he did. He said at the time that it wasn’t about working with family, it was “about picking up a trade.” But, he acknowledged, he was excited to work with family, too. He added that not too many people get the experience of working with their father.
“Personally, I have to say, I’ve never been able to call in sick. That’s a negative,” he said. “Who am I going to call, my mother?”
The senior Lopez acknowledged the tricky dynamics of working with family, as well.
“I worked for my dad and it’s not easy working with family, but it can be done,” he said. In reference to the time when both his daughters and son worked in the shop with him, he said, “When I had them all here, it was a lot of fun.”
While Joe Junior might have started in the business for different reasons, these days it’s a different story. Joe Junior, who took over as owner about 15 years ago, said he likes to cut hair but said, “It’s never fun being the boss.” He’s learned a lot from his father about business.
“The procedures he put down, we still follow,” he said.
He also credits the longevity of the business to his father. He gives kudos to the talented stylists at Barber Joe’s, past and present, but said, “Realistically, it’s all him.”
“He doesn’t have an enemy in the entire world,” he said.
The barber buck in the Lopez family is stopping with the younger Lopez, however. He has two daughters who went into the Air Force, and he’s just fine with the barber dynasty coming to an end, he said.
“Longevity of something like this is rare, but it’s not forever,” he said. “This is a modern world and what we’re doing is not modern.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.