If a person does anything for long enough, they begin to develop relationships that stand the test of time.
After 70 years as a barber, Seguin resident Ernesto “Ernie the Barber” Perez, Sr. said he has those in spades. Perez hung up his smock after seven decades as a barber, and he hopes to see many of the friends and customers who have become family over the years once he can celebrate his retirement.
“I don’t want to miss nobody,” Perez said about the guests he hopes attend the party. “I want everybody to come whether they’re an old customer, a new customer, whatever. I want to see everybody.”
Born in Pandora in 1927, Perez has been a Seguin resident since his family moved here about a year after his birth. Here is where he met and married the love of his life, Susie, and raised four children — two boys and two girls.
Susie died in 2016 after 73 years of marriage, and Ernie has continued to serve his clients. But the work part is soon coming to an end.
“We’ll have a lot of memories once I quit that job,” he said. “I met a lot of people I learned a lot from because I listen to a lot of people who know a lot.”
He will miss the work, but more importantly, he said he’ll miss the people.
“No, I’m not ready,” the 92-year-old said. “The only reason I’m going to retire is my health and my age. I’m going to miss my business and my customers.”
He started barber school after an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force. Ernie quickly grew his clientele, becoming a master barber along the way. He then opened his own shops, his son Ruben R. Perez said.
The first shop was in Seguin, but then Ernie moved to a shop in Universal City, Ruben said.
“I grew up around the shop,” Ruben said. “The one in Seguin was next to the house. We had to clean it so it would pass inspection ... As well as the one in Universal City, we had to make sure it was clean as well.”
Through the years, his father has cut the hair of people from all walks of life, Ruben said. From politicians, to athletes, to servicemen, his dad has trimmed them all.
Ernie likes to boast that he probably has at least one client currently living in every state, Ruben said. And they all love Ernie the Barber, the younger Perez said.
“He treats his clients like he treats family. His clients are his family,” Ruben said. “I’ve been at the barber shop lately where people will stop by not needing a haircut just to see how he’s doing. ‘Has he eaten? Does he need any help?’ Just to see how he’s doing. Many of his clients are his friends.”
Ruben describes his father as a personable, family man, and a fiercely patriotic American. Ernie is his son’s hero and role model.
Ruben, a prosecutor for 40 years in the Houston area, said he learned valuable life lessons from his father that are sure to carry on through the years well beyond the elder Perez’s retirement.
Ernie loves fishing and enjoys watching baseball and football. His retirement celebration event was scheduled for March 28 at Ernie’s Barbershop in Universal City, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, those plans are on hold.
Clients and friends have asked Ernie what gift he wants for his retirement. He jokingly warned them all against buying him a huge fishing boat, the barber said.
“All I want as a present is them to come to see me; that’s the main thing,” Ernie said. “I enjoyed my job. I will never forget it.”