METAMORA — In the window of a stout building on the edge of town, near the highway's merger down to two lanes before stretching out into vast expanses of vacant cropland, Lynn Elbert hung a closed sign for the final time on Saturday.
A different sign — a for sale sign — has been in front of the single-chair barbershop for more than a year, but, after 58 years cutting hair, Elbert didn't want to delay any longer moving to his retirement home at Lake Wildwood in Varna.
"I decided I can't wait for it to sell, it's time to go," Elbert said Saturday as his appointment book dwindled to less than a handful of haircuts. "It's been a good ride, people have been good to me. ... I want to make sure to thank everyone for all their support."
Elbert's decision to become a barber was as much about what he didn't want to do as it was his preference to work with people. He had already delivered newspapers and punched the clock at a factory in town before investigating options at a barber college.
"I decided I'd rather do service work than work in the factory," Elbert said. "When I went to the barbershop in the square, I saw he had the radio on and the TV to watch sports, and I thought that was pretty good, that I'd want to do that."
That was in 1959, and, Elbert, now 78, said, "I've been at it ever since, except for the two years I was in the service."
After finishing at Peoria Barber College and a subsequent apprenticeship, Elbert worked at other barbershops in the area until deciding to open his own shop in his hometown, Metamora, in August 1972.
He remained at that location for 23 years, then, in 1995, had his current shop with an upstairs rental apartment built by his carpenter nephews. The building still looks new, even if it represents an antiquated lifestyle. Modern hairstyles, and the barbers who create them, just don't work in the same type of environment anymore, Elbert said.
He first decided to sell his business in 2017 but couldn't find a buyer. Other barbers offered to rent the shop, but none of those plans came to pass. There's not much demand, it seems, for single-room rural barbershops, even though Elbert has stayed busy.
"They're scattered a long way, there's just not enough barbers in these small towns," Elbert said. "When I sell this place, it doesn't have to be to a barber, but it would be nice if it was."
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.