Step into the Jackson Family Barber Shop, and you step back into time.
Barber shops were the social media of a time gone by. Men used to gather in barber shops to drink coffee and keep up with the news (or town gossip) of the day. If they shot a deer or a turkey, they brought it the barber shop to show it off. Oh by the way, if they needed a shave or a haircut, (or mustache or beard trimmed), they could get that done too.
Matt Sullivan, the current owner, has tried to keep some of that old time feeling in Jackson’s longest-running barber shop. “It’s the oldest barber shop in Cape County,” he said. “It has been continually run and has not closed for wars or the Depression.”
Sullivan has two barber chairs that have been in the shop since the 1940s. “This is probably only the second or third set of chairs that have ever been in the shop,” Sullivan said. “Just loosely guessing, these chairs are from the early ’40s and loosely figuring, these chairs have done between 600,000 and 800,000 haircuts each and have had zero maintenance done to them. They arejust heavy duty [and] well-made.”
The walls of the shop are covered in old-time photos and memorabilia about barbers, hunting and Disney (Sullivan likes both hunting and Disney). Nine comfortable chairs are placed around the room for waiting customers. A magazine rack holds reading material, and The Cash-Book Journal lies on a table.
Sullivan and his daughter, Matti (who has been his apprentice since September 2021 and will get her barber license this coming September), offer traditional men’s and boys’ haircuts, and facial hair trimmings.
“We used to have a few women over the years who have had shorter haircuts. Anymore, we have a few, but not very many at all. Back in the ’20s and ’30s there used to be a lot of women who went to barber shops to get the pixie-style and bobbed-style haircuts. It has waned over the years,” Sullivan said.
During the 1970s and ’80s, men wore their hair longer and barbers had to learn to cut hair in a “full style” and cut “big hair.” Then the style shifted back into the more traditional men’s cut.
Sullivan points to a black-and-white photo of Walt Disney on the wall and says he sports a traditional hair cut which never goes out of style.
“It was in style in 1920, it was in style 1950, and it will be in style in 2050. The classic man’s hair cut and the classic barber shop will never go out of style, despite everything else changing,” Sullivan said.
Founded over 125 years ago in 1896, Jackson Family Barber Shop was originally called Hoffmeisters Barber Shop. It has always been located in Uptown Jackson. It’s original location is now the drive-thru lane of the former Union Planters (or Regions) Bank on High Street and Main.
The barber shop was owned by Jack Hoffmeister in the mid-1960s. It was purchased from the Hoffmeisters by Don Rees, who owned it until the early 1990s. The name was changed to the Rees Family Barber Shop. Eventually, Don’s son, Doug, took it over. By then it was located in a small brick building next to The Cash-Book Journal at 212 W. Main St.
The Rees family retired from the barber business in 2006, and the shop was acquired by Larry Harris, who sold it to Paula Mills, and it was renamed the Jackson Family Barber Shop.
Michael Mays owned the shop from 2006 to 2021. Sullivan started working there in 2006. (He left for awhile and returned in 2018).
When Mays owned the shop, a motorcycle repair shop began operating in the basement of the building. Noise and exhaust made its way into the barber shop upstairs.
Deciding to move to a more updated shop that would still be in the Uptown area, Mays moved to the current location at 117 E. Jefferson St. (across Jefferson Street from American Ice Cream and across U.S. Hwy. 61 from Immaculate Conception Catholic School).
Mays retired and Sullivan bought the shop in May 2021.
Throughout the history of the shop, “it has always been owned by one of the barbers working here; it gets handed down. Whoever was the eldest barber working here took it over,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan grew up in Southern Illinois and moved here in 2002. “I came to Jackson and have been here pretty well ever since,” he said.
He took a job at a car dealership after moving here, but he thought about becoming a barber.
In 2004, someone told him there was a barber school in Cape Girardeau (the SEMO Barber and Hairstyling Academy, which today is no longer in business). He jumped at his chance; he signed up during his lunch break that day and started his schooling the next week. “I didn’t want to go to a beauty school; I wanted to go to a traditional barber school,” Sullivan recalled.
(Beauty schools get into hair coloring, permanents and more—things Sullivan didn’t want to learn.)
Nine months later, Sullivan graduated from the program and became a barber.
Sullivan likes the current location. Although the shop is smaller — with room for only two instead of three barber chairs — it has good visibility from the heavy traffic on U.S. Hwy 61 and it is still located in Uptown Jackson.
“This is the same traditional old-fashioned barber shop that it has always been,” Sullivan states. It draws customers from Jackson and all of rural Cape County.
If you would like to experience an old-fashioned barber shop for the first time or relive a memory from your past, feel free to stop in. The Jackson family Barber Shop takes appointments (call 573-243-6888), but they aren’t necessary. You can just walk in. If you want to save some money, take along the coupon on this page.
Photo by Gregory Dullum
Matt Sullivan and his daughter, Matti, are ready to serve customers at the Jackson Family Barber Shop. This chair probably dates back to the early 1940s.