Glendale - Every family seems to share something between generations. For some it's an heirloom, or a home, or a distinctive set of family features.
For the Erlichmans, five generations have shared the blades and the banter, the company and candor of Glendale barber George Jelich, who owns George Jelich's Barbers, 6801 N. Green Bay Road.
First there was David, now passed, then Gary, now 73, Brian, now 53, his now 26-year-old son Ben, and most recently Ben's son, Liam, who, at 7-months-old, has already been in to see Jelich.
"George is more like a friend of the family," says Brian. "He's not just our barber."
And vice versa.
"What's nice," says Jelich, "is many guys, like Brian, left Milwaukee. They took off and ended up somewhere else, but they come back."
Coming to know family after family, to Jelich, may be the best part of his 63-year barbering career in Glendale, during which his customers have come to call him a staple of the community.
"That's really what life is all about," Jelich says, "these guys come back and they look you up, and they bring their families in and tell their stories. They say, 'this is my barber,' and it gives you this nice kind of uplift. These guys remember you."
Banter part of the fun
Brian remembers his first cut from Jelich in 1963: a style called "The Princeton." Nice and short. Parted. Clean and sophisticated, he says.
More than that, he remembers going in with his father. He remembers reading the comic books on the shelf while observing the lively banter between Jelich and his patrons.
"They'd be sitting around, reading the paper and having discussions," Brian says, "and I always thought it was a neat environment as a kid. It was something the men did. Came in on Saturday, got their hair cut, and they talked."
After all these years, he still comes down to Jelich's shop for the experience.
"People don't get their hair cut just because the guy's good with scissors," Brian says. "They go because they enjoy the company."
And, of course, they enjoy Jelich's stories. Like the one about the man who sneezed out a pair of dentures into a pile of hair clippings on the floor. Or the one about Jelich's inaugural hairpiece sale to a man who, once he realized just how beat up his old one was, took the first thing offered to him, stuck it firmly on his head, and took off, never to be seen again.
Like the Erlichmans found, you build a relationship with Jelich. You come to know him, and he comes to know you, which was the case with Jelich's most famous regular, Bob Uecker, whose hair he has cut for decades.
"I go back for many, many years with this guy. He's been very grateful and good to us," says Jelich, adding with the grin and candor only a barber can have, "And I've been good to him! I made him good lookin'!"