Open All Winter: Bernie's Barber Shop
Founded by Bernie Morris in 1965, the Asbury Avenue staple serves Ocean City locals and visitors year-round.
ADDRESS: 937 Asbury Avenue
INFO: See Bernie's Facebook page
OWNER: Lora Stankiewicz
YEAR FOUNDED: 1965
EMPLOYEES: Three barbers, including the owner
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 9 a.m. to 3p.m. Sunday
OTHER STUFF TO KNOW: Visa and Mastercard accepted. Haircuts are $15, shaves $15 with a haircut or $20 alone.
The neon light hanging in the window of Bernie's Barber Shop is original to the 46-year-old storefront. From the inside, the light makes a buzzing noise, but Lora Stankiewicz has been working here so long, she doesn't notice the hum. And can't quite pinpoint the fragrance of the shop either? After-shave? Hair tonic from years gone by? It's pleasantly masculine, whatever it is.
Stankiewicz started here as a barber 20 years ago under founder Bernie Morris and bought the business from him about eight years ago. Morris stayed on until he retired just a few years ago, lives a couple blocks away and stops in for guest appearances — like when he gave Stankiewicz's then-4-month-old son, Michael, his first haircut last year.
Last fall, Stankiewicz replaced what she described as the shop's “igloo green” walls with a deep mustardy brown color that sets off the three minty green circa 1930s barber chairs. She started accepting credit cards. A flat-screen TV hangs discreetly at one end of the shop.
Stankiewicz also added facial shaves the old-fashioned way — with hot towels, cream applied with a brush and straight razors — to the shop's brief list of services. They are small touches that give the bright, clean shop a nostalgic, yet updated vibe.
“I painted and modernized, but wanted to keep the feel,” Stankiewicz said. “Barbering hasn't changed much in 40 years. Styles, yes.”
In this block anchored by Johnson's Appliance across the street, Bernie's is one of several businesses that stay open year-round. Stankiewicz says location is the key to the shop's success. Two other barbers work with her, allowing seven-day-a-week hours. She notes the shop has two distinct personalities in winter and summer.
Wintertime, locals shoot the breeze and exchange town news when they meet up here. They share snippets of their lives with Stankiewicz while she's snipping away at their hair.
“Which is good, because that means they feel comfortable with me,” she said.
“Summertime clientele are totally different, mostly visitors who didn't have time to get a haircut before they came on vacation,” Stankiewicz said. “I have a lot of summer people who come back year after year. In fact, there's one family who comes from England and the man is the one who convinced me to offer shaves.”
Retiree Joseph Skutlin, active in the local arm of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, stopped in for a cut on a recent afternoon, saying his wife sent him to get his white locks ship-shape.
“I've been coming here since the 1990s. Lora takes care of me. She keeps my hair looking good,” Skutlin said. On this afternoon, the retiree also enjoyed a straight razor shave by Stankiewicz. It starts off with hot-towels wrapped around his face to soften the whiskers. Then, Stankiewicz brushes on foamy shaving cream. After shaving with an old-fashioned razor, she uses a gentle slapping motion to appy moisturizer and after-shave.
Ahh, that's a refreshing treat. Skutlin settled his sharp navy auxiliary baseball cap back on his fresh haircut and headed home. He'll no doubt be back in a couple weeks.