Regulars will miss retiring 'old-school' Elkhart barber Larry Stamper

Larry Stamper and his barbershop have been a fixture in downtown Elkhart since the early 1970s.

Posted on Aug. 8, 2014 at 6:47 a.m.

ELKHART — The barber pole’s red stripe is faded.

The front window is almost empty. Three bottles of shaving products are lined up on a shelf inside.

A hand-lettered message on white paper is taped to the window:

“After 58 years CLOSING, regretfully due to declining health.”

Seville Barber Shop owner Larry Stamper, a fixture in downtown Elkhart for decades, is retiring due to Alzheimer’s and won’t be trimming hair at his Lexington Avenue shop in Elkhart anymore.

Larry served three generations of some Elkhart families. Diana, his wife, remembers a customer who would bring all four sons in to get haircuts — they filled the one-chair shop.

“He gives all credit to his loyal customer base,” Diana Stamper said. “He just loves his families, he gives everything for them.”

Larry went to barber school right after high school and cut hair in Elkhart before joining the U.S. military. After coming back from the army and marrying Diana in 1971, he settled down in Warsaw and opened his barber shop in downtown Elkhart.

He’s been trimming hair for 58 years, known for old-school and military haircuts like flat-tops.

Larry and Seville Barber Shop’s old-school class drew Elkhart attorney Tim Shelly back regularly.

“I’m old enough that barbers, when I was growing up, they always had the Playboy-type magazines, the dirty jokes and old guys grousing about politics,” Shelly said. “He always had the New York Times and was listening to NPR on the radio.”

Jeff Simon, Stamper’s landlord, said he’s known Larry for eight years and got his hair cut at Seville too. His office was behind Larry’s on Lexington Avenue.

“I would always walk through the barbershop and sit sometimes,” Simon said. “The barbershop was a place where people would congregate.”

Larry gave a lot of first haircuts to sons and grandsons of his regulars. He had a special method to keep kids calm, Diana said.

A dad would sit in the barber’s chair and hold his son, who sat on the arm and played with one of the toy cars from the barbershop’s front window. 

“He doesn’t even know he’s getting a haircut,” Larry said. “Once you get ‘em started, you know, from then on, each time is a little bit easier.”

Stamper’s retirement open house

Larry Stamper’s wife Diana and three daughters are holding an open house reception for Larry 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, August 9, in Seville Barber shop at 108 W. Lexington Ave. in Elkhart.

Larry Stamper’s abrupt retirement meant he didn’t get to say goodbye to his regulars. His wife and daughters are holding an open house this Saturday at the barbershop so friends and former customers can send him off in style.

Shelly said he’s not sure where he’ll go now that he won’t be a regular at Larry’s barbershop.

“It’s not one of those common events, how often do you have to look for a barber?” Shelly said. “You find a guy you like or a woman you like and keep going to them.”

Shelly and Simon both said Larry was always generous, saying, “Ah, just get me next time,” if someone didn’t bring enough money for a cut, and giving coffee and cash to people down on their luck.

“He believed in his downtown community,” Diana Stamper said. Addressing her husband, she continued, “And you were there to support the community.”

But Larry Stamper is nonchalant about the mark he left on his regulars and on Elkhart.

“I just kinda blended in with all the people downtown,” he said, shrugging. “It was a good time, really.”

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