At 106 Empire Street in Montpelier, Ohio one can enter the door to a long time business establishment by the name of Rockey’s Barber Shop. As you walk through that door you will be enthusiastically welcomed by the owner and proprietor Jim Rockey.
Jim was born in Williams County on November 30, 1939 to Clinton and Kathrina Rockey. He was one of seven boys raised by his parents in this community.
He attended Montpelier Schools from grades 1 thru 12 and graduated from Montpelier High School in 1957. That same year he married his lovely wife Deanna “Kay” Matthews and they are the parents of Tammy, Pamela, and Debra. Jim and “Kay” have seven grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren. Speaking of “Kay”, Jim says, “I knew very early on that she was the one for me.”
After graduation and marriage “Rockey” worked at different odd jobs around Montpelier, and then entered Barber College in Toledo, Ohio where he graduated in 1959.
Upon graduation Jim went to work for George Kutler in Edon, Ohio and was there until 1962 when he moved back to Montpelier on Main Street and worked for Jerry Brannan for two years. Then in 1964 he relocated to the present location at 106 Empire Street having purchased it from Walt Shambarger.
At that time in history there were four barbershops in Montpelier supporting nine barbers. It was not unusual to walk into one of these shops and wait your turn to get a haircut from one of the two or three barbers working that day.
During this period the railroad was still very active and there were three hotels in town. Many of the factories were doing very well and growing at a hectic pace. Montpelier was a booming place.
Many local names came up during our conversation such as the Bibles, Keischers, and the factory magnet names of Hofbauer, Winzeler, Swartz and Haldiman.
Family doctors names such as Luxan, Taylor, Bemis and DeMuth also made their way into the conversation, as well as a Chiropractor by the name of Blossom, a Dentist named Ely, and an Ophthalmologist by the name of Dreffer.
Jim has been a part of this community, not only as a barber and business owner, but also as a Little League Coach for five years, City Councilman for twelve years and the Volunteer Fire Department for 31 years.
He and his wife and daughters have been a part of the local Lutheran congregation and have belonged to the local Moose and Eagles Organizations for many years and enjoy their patronage and fellowship there.
When one thinks about a job that puts you out in the public eye every work day and the different temperaments and personalities that you may have to address, one may wonder how a person can do that for so long and not be showing any signs of stopping.
Then you take a look at Jim and you see someone that honestly and truly cares for his fellow man. As a person that has heard many stories over the years of both happiness and sadness in people’s lives, Jim thrives in this environment.
He has given customers the first haircut of their life and also has given customers their final haircut.
When you have been doing the same thing for as long as Jim has, you actually have the privilege of serving generations. “Rockey” is now servicing great grandchildren of customers from his initial years as a barber.
Thus he could probably have written a very interesting book, if only he would have kept a daily journal.
One of the things that Jim really enjoys is when someone may have moved out of the area and they come back to town and stop in to see him and talk about old times.
Or when a person that was on one of the little league teams that he coached comes up and shares that not only did they learn about baseball from their coach, but also about life.
Jim lives about three quarters of a mile from the shop and has walked to and from work for over fifty years, every day. That totals over 12,000 miles so far. This winter is the first in all that time that he has finally given in to a little motorized transportation. He says “I always liked the exercise. It was great for my legs.”
As you look around the walls of Rockey’s Barber Shop and see the banners, pictures and other memorabilia hanging there, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Jim is a big sports enthusiast. The teams that he roots for are The Montpelier Locomotives, Ohio State Buckeyes, Toledo Rockets, Cleveland Browns and The Cleveland Cavaliers.
Asked about health issues he may have had, Jim shares that he had a serious bowel blockage in 2006 and a heart attack in 2013 and surgery was required for both. He has recovered nicely and just keeps on working and enjoying life.
Sometimes we take small things like a haircut for granted, but in reality, the relationships that have been gained from sitting in Jim Rockey’s barber’s chair are those of friendships and memories that will last a lifetime and will be passed down for generations.
Over the years, the number of barbershops has diminished in Montpelier, Ohio, but as long as Jim Rockey can function, the one at 106 Empire will be there to serve the community. This man absolutely loves what he does and has no plans of retiring in the near future.
When asked what advice he would like to share, Jim says this, “Be honest, be faithful, have a strong work ethic, and most of all treat people the way you would like to be treated.”
Jim is a man in whom you can immediately see his love for his wife, children and family. But even beyond that, his love for every person that he comes into contact with is very evident. That is why he has been so successful in life in every endeavor he has been involved in.
Montpelier is a better place to live because of folks like Jim Rockey! Thank you Jim for all the years of support and dedication that you have given to this community!
John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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