A Publication of WTVP

The Cutting Edge

by Steve Stein | Photos by Ron Johnson |

Lightning-fast haircuts and friendly conversation are barber Jim Hartter’s specialties

Jim Hartter’s customers come from all walks of life.

They include doctors and lawyers, basketball coaches including Bradley University’s Brian Wardle and Metamora High’s Danny Grieves and many of their players, lawmen including Peoria County Sheriff Chris Watkins and his predecessor Brian Asbell, and media personalities such as Greg Batton of WMBD radio’s “Greg and Dan Show.” Occasionally a homeless person finds his way to Hartter’s place and climbs into the chair.

Hartter is a barber.

He owns Jim’s Barbershop at 4311 N. Sheridan Road in Peoria and The Garage Barbershop at his home at 708 Devon Drive in Germantown Hills.

It’s walk-in only at the Peoria shop, appointments-only at home.

Hartter is legendary for his speed, his work ethic and, most importantly, his welcome mat. He’s your friendly neighborhood bartender with clippers.

Jim's Barbershop

“I ask everyone what’s new when they come in and they start talking,” Hartter said. “They tell me about good things like weddings and pregnancies. And they talk to me when things aren’t going so well.

“Relationships are what it’s all about in my business, and I’m blessed. I would have never met all the people I’ve met without my trade.”

Hartter said he didn’t purposely become the fastest shears in the West. It’s just the way he operates.

Jim's Barbershop

“I don’t want someone who’s been coming to see me for 20 years have to wait an hour for a haircut,” he said. “But I want to keep my Peoria barbershop a walk-in place. I don’t know any other barber who does that. That’s a big reason why that barbershop is so busy.”

‘It’s like going back in time to the barbershop my dad went to‘ — Greg Batton

Batton said Hartter is “incredibly fast. He’s a big sports fan. If he starts your haircut with a game on TV, he’ll be done before the next commercial break. Of course, I’m a middle-aged guy with a receding hairline, so he doesn’t have to do much with me.”

Batton marvels at the diversity of people who come into Hartter’s Peoria location. Asbell has noticed, too.

“Jim has customers from every part of the community,” the latter said. “Both sides of the river. Urban and rural. People like him because he’s a class act and a good guy. You can joke with him and be serious.

“I like going there because when you walk in, you’re one of the guys. There’s barbershop talk there, and everyone wants to jump in. It’s like going back in time to the barbershop my dad went to.”

Chris Watkins drags along his sons Lane, 11, and Jase, 7. “The boys don’t like getting haircuts because they have to sit still for a few minutes, but they love going to Jim,” he said. “He gets their haircuts done quickly and talks sports with them. They refuse to go anyplace else for a haircut.”

“I can relate to Chris’ kids. I can’t sit still either,” Hartter said.

Watkins said Hartter is affordable — $14 for a men’s haircut, $10 for a kid’s, no charge for a beard or neck trim — personable, efficient and knows a little bit about all his customers.

“And because of that, he’s a busy guy,” he said. “Sometimes he gets away from his shop in Peoria for 15 minutes or so. When he returns, the parking lot is full.”

Busy certainly describes Hartter’s work day. He’s open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in Peoria. He’s back at it at The Garage Barbershop from 6:45 p.m. until about 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. He also cuts hair weekly at the Lutheran Hillside Village assisted living facility in Peoria.

When he isn’t cutting hair, Hartter, 46, is a family man. He puts in all the hours to provide for his wife Sara and children Maddie, 13, Mason, 12, and Wil, 9.

That’s why he was so concerned in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when barber shops and beauty salons were considered non-essential businesses and not allowed to operate.

“I was shut down for 2-1/2 months,” he said. “It was scary.”

This is Hartter’s 24th year at the Peoria barbershop, which has been owned by several barbers through the decades. Hartter started his career there working for Judy Langley from 1999 to 2006, when he purchased the business. Before it was Judy’s, the building housed Alice’s Barbershop.

For 13 years, Hartter operated with the iconic “Judy’s Barbershop” sign that had been there since the mid-1980s. It was made of about 10,000 plastic tabs that produced a glittering effect. Ultimately, the sign got to be too much to maintain and fell into disrepair. He replaced it in 2019.

“Jim didn’t have anything in mind for the sign, so I had one of my designers come up with some options and you see the one he picked,” said Shane Parker, co-owner of PIP Printing. “The old sign had to be there about 30 years. People would use it for directions. You couldn’t miss it when it was flapping in the wind.”

Today, the new façade reads, “Jim’s Barbershop.” That Sheridan/Lake intersection has long been a landmark for local cuts, and so it remains.

Steve Stein

Steve Stein

is a longtime Peoria area print journalist