Danville's 'Rod the Barber' retiring after 48 years

DANVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- It's the end of an era for three generations of men who've been going to the same barber, in some cases, for their entire lives.

Rod Broxterman -- known by locals as simply "Rod the Barber" -- is a rare specimen these days. He's worked for almost 50 years in the same barber shop -- a job he fell into by accident when he left his home in Ohio to live with his uncle in California.

"Graduated high school, and he asked me, 'What are you gonna do now?'" Broxterman said, sitting in a well-worn barber's chair that's likely as old as he is. "And I said, 'I don't know.' And he said, 'Well, you're gonna be a barber.'"

Broxterman went to barber college in San Jose, then joined his uncle's family business at the barber shop on Diablo Road in Danville. A few years later, he bought the business -- and has worked there ever since.

"You know, you make a commitment, you gotta stick with it," he said.

And he has, through three generations: grandfathers, fathers, and sons all show up to his shop together and patiently wait in line.

"All five of the ones waiting are waiting for Rod. And so am I," said Jack Reed, who had his last haircut from Broxterman a week ago.

Some things haven't changed: men with gray hair come back every month for the same haircuts they got when they were kids. And much like the barber himself, they don't make barber's chairs like they used to. Broxterman says he tried getting new ones.

"The just didn't hold up, so I had to go back to the good chairs," he said.

But despite its vintage fixtures, time inside the barbershop hasn't stood still. As the world outside changed, Broxterman said he stayed at the top of his game by changing with it.

"When i first came to work here, we mostly used all clippers," he said. But then, "Long hair came in, then I had to learn how to do long hair."

Broxterman started going to hair shows and became a master with the scissors.

"They're sharp," he said, gesturing to his scarred-up knuckles. "They're sharp enough to cut you. They're almost like razor sharp."

Broxterman's expertise with long hair put the Mt. Diablo Barber Shop on the map. He's kept up with every trend since. Even the ones that baffle him, like young men asking for comb-overs.

"It's weird, because comb-overs have been around for a long time, but that's usually for the bald guys," he pondered.

As he says goodbye to his customers, Broxterman says he's looking forward to life in the mountains. Where some barbers would have walls lined with pictures of famous people they've met -- and he's met plenty -- Broxterman prefers pictures of the beautiful places he's hiked to.

"That there is Crater Lake, and I'm out there on Garfield Peak," he said pointing to a picture of himself above the mirror.

He's making his retirement official on New Year's Eve, with new owners set to start work in his old barber shop within a few days. One of those owners, veteran barber Tony Fernandez, said he wouldn't be surprised to see Broxterman again.

"He'll come back," Fernandez said. "I retired twice, and i'm back in the business."
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