The customers at the Poolesville Barber Shop settle into Lloyd Grubb's white porcelain chair without a word of instruction. He already knows what they don't want -- no mousse, no fluff, none of this blow-dry business.
"You look at a head, you know what it's supposed to look like when it gets done," said Grubb, 74, who has snipped hair in Poolesville for more than 30 years.
He's not Floyd the Barber. He's Lloyd the Barber.
Given his name and locale, in this Montgomery County town of 3,400, Grubb is used to jokes about "The Andy Griffith Show" and the nervous town barber of Mayberry. Grubb, however, is not another Floyd. He's a compact, reassuring figure in a pale blue zip-front tunic, calmly plucking, shaving and clipping his large assortment of heads.
"I tried barbers in Gaithersburg, Rockville, you name it. I couldn't get a satisfactory haircut," said George Claassen, 77, of Germantown, who entered the shop 12 years ago demanding to know first if it was "a style shop or a barbershop."
At other places, he said, "they teased it and curled it. And I wanted a good old-fashioned farmer's haircut. I came to Lloyd and that was it."
Except that now Grubb is retiring -- completely, this time. Two years ago, he sold his business to Virginia Stavers, a certified master barber, and trimmed his workload down to a single day a week. But each Tuesday, Grubb might confront as many as 50 shaggy scalps requiring his special care: "It takes me a while to recover." Dec. 18 will be his final day.
The Poolesville shop is the only barbershop in this still-rural section of western Montgomery. (There are three beauty salons.) It is a comfortable undecorated place, with knotty-pine walls, one ornate barber's chair in the center and a line of brown vinyl waiting chairs on each side. Near the door, a sign supplies a list of prices, including $4 for "Buzzes" and "All Bald on Top."
A Grubb haircut usually begins with some skilled scissors work, followed by a quick shave around the neck and ears, and a final dusting of talc. Customers step away with the unmistakable, neatly skinned look that fairly shouts a recent trip to the barber. Grubb's specialty, said his wife, Thelma, is "his excellent flat top."
But his customers also appreciate the extra touches he provides. One elderly patron has a running joke of demanding that Grubb clean his eyeglasses with each haircut, so "I can see to get home." Others tell of bedridden times when Grubb showed up at their homes to trim their hair and refused to accept any payment. His balding constituents also speak well of his scalp massage.
"Some people you fit with and some people you don't," said Richard Sherwood, 64, of Poolesville, a retired federal government employee. "He's an old-time barber. Shaves around the ears and the back. If your eyebrows are bushy, he'll cut them. Hair in the ears. The old-fashioned barbers used to do the whole thing."
The Tuesday customers come from as far as Damascus, 20 miles away, and live in communities such as Urbana and Dawsonville and Boyds. Many are retired or involved in farming. On a recent morning, Kevin Savage, a farmer, stopped in for a quick trim between chores. He is 19. How many years has he been coming to Grubb? "Nineteen," he said.
In fact, Grubb's patrons have always had to work their haircuts around his schedule, because, for most of his barbering career, he was also employed full time in the materiel branch of the U.S. Navy. Regulars knew to look for his red truck parked beside the shop on evenings and Saturdays as a signal to come in.
Now they kid him that fishing and refinishing furniture won't be enough to keep his hands busy once he retires to his home in nearby Beallsville.
"I'm worried about you," said Harry Harner, of Boyds, who came in for a haircut, along with Charles, his 80-year-old father. "I don't want you to get in trouble after you quit cutting. You might get ahold of your wife's hair."
"I doubt it," said Grubb, dabbing the lather at Charles Harner's temple. "She used to let me trim it, but she'd be right there with a mirror, watching me the whole time. She didn't trust me."