Earlier this summer, the was full of 'Best Burger' and 'Best Bar.' As a nearly lifelong resident of Toms River, I can tell you that the 'Best' business in town doesn't serve beef or Bud, but you will get a trim in good company at Jerry's Barbershop.
In the twelve months of my life I didn't live in Toms River, I visited nearly twelve different barbershops and salons.
There were the small, local shops; the chains; the mall salons; and the ethnic ones.
In Belmar, and old Italian man gave me a dated side-part while exacerbating my hypochondria by shaving the back on my neck with a straight razor.
In Wall, I had recent beauty school graduate give me a cut that, no matter what I did, seemed to always mutate its way into a faux-hawk.
At the Monmouth Mall, a woman set a new world record, cutting my hair in under three minutes. I would later take a buzzer to my own head in the shower to rectify her failure.
I felt like Goldilocks, only there was no bowl of lukewarm porridge to enjoy at the conclusion of my search.
When my wife and I bought a house in Toms River, it was because of housing prices, taxes, and school systems. One of the intangible reasons though, was Jerry's Barbershop and the prospect of decent haircuts for life.
I grew up at Jerry's, first going every few weeks with my dad, then going less frequently during my breaks from college.
A family business, you could always count on seeing Jerry at his station nearest the front windows and his son and daughter manning other spots around the room. There have been other employees throughout the years, but I'd imagine "employee" isn't word Jerry would use. "Extended family" is more like it.
They're kind of like the American Chopper of barbershops if you will.
I've been back in Toms River for a few years now and while the small shop still stands next to Krauser's on Hooper Ave (near the Rt. 37 intersection), some things have changed at Jerry's.
The large fish mounted on the wall has been replaced with a flat screen television, and Jerry's son now operates out of his old chair. There are some new faces working clippers and scissors, too.
What hasn't changed is the great haircuts and better conversations. And while those conversations are usually amongst the barbers themselves, patrons love to listen in an laugh along with them.
The men of Toms River have plenty of other options. A number of chain barbers have popped up in a few plazas fairly recently. There's always those seedy, local places boasting $4 or $7 trims.
But while Jerry's may not match those prices, it exceeds them all in value.
That's why it isn't odd to see a line ten or twelve deep on a weekday afternoon at Jerry's. A line in which those in the know will gladly wait.