Remembering Al Segrest, Owner Of Clip Joint

Frank_ProfilesmallBy Frank Sinatra, AAP Editor

The sign on the door says, “Death in the family.” They have no idea how right they are.

Al Segrest, iconic owner of The Clip Joint in Merchantville, passed away suddenly last night. He was 68 years old. It’s a shock to many of us who frequented his shop for years.


Al Segrest, iconic owner of the Clip Joint in Merchantville, passed away suddenly on Oct. 19.

Social media today is full of tributes to this iconic man, a true community staple who made easy friends with so many. Here’s a sampling:

“Woke up to find that one of the good guys passed away last night. I knew him for over 30 years, he loved his family and once he got to know you, treated you like you were a member of his family too.”

“You loved our family and we loved you… you were a riot to be around and always made getting a haircut a fun adventure, especially Friday afternoons when the line of boys would be waiting hours for you to cut their hair as you were the ‘cool barber.’ Your generosity was second to none.”

“I have known Al for nearly 40 years and loved his jokes and his wit. He gave me a free haircut when as I child I lost the money my mother gave me for a haircut. When my father passed away and I went to get a haircut before the funeral, he put me to the front of the line. Was a pleasure to see him with his customers and fun to see him offer my boys the same haircuts he offered me as a kid – a mohawk, a shamrock, etc.”

The darkened store front of The Clip Joint, one day after the passing of owner Al Segrest.

The darkened store front of The Clip Joint, one day after the passing of owner Al Segrest.

As kids, my brother Rob and I used to ride our bicycles through the back streets of Pennsauken, pedaling right up Centre St. to get to Al’s. Many of The Clip Joint’s customers grew up, started a career, had families of our own; we still came back to have Al or one of the “girls” cut our hair. Last year, I tried biking it up to the Clip Joint like I did in the old days. It was a lot tougher than I remember. As I came wheezing through the door, Al just chuckled; I smiled. It was just like it was so many years ago, every time you set foot in The Clip Joint. Al made that possible.

My son Adam loved going to get his hair cut by Al. He called him, “that funny guy.” They would banter back and forth, with Al getting jokes wrong on purpose to get a reaction. Al would spoil Adam like he was one of his grandkids, not even blinking when he went to get an extra pretzel rod or lollipop. And I know he wasn’t the only little kid who got this special treatment. Al had a lot of grandkids. A community full of them.

I had an opportunity to speak with Al’s younger brother, John, who reopened the shop for a moment today so we could talk about everyone’s favorite barber. We spoke about the fire that occurred at the shop in August of 2013 and displaced the business to a temporary location further down the street. John helped Al put the shop back together so he could reopen for business. He was determined to make sure The Clip Joint was up in running in the old place. And it did, in April of 2015. It was like he never left.

John also talked about Al’s generosity.

Al and Ed

Al and Ed

“He took care of a lot of people. Many people don’t know that,” says John. He showed me a picture of “Ed,” a neighborhood guy from way back that had special needs. Al wouldn’t just cut his hair; he was a friend, helping by passing him a few bucks here and there as he needed it. Ed was one of many folks who Al quietly lent a hand to. He was just that kind of guy.

When my brother was ordained a priest, Al stopped taking his money and would ask for a blessing in lieu of payment. He wasn’t the only clergy who benefitted from that special. And Al would never take a tip. That was just the kind of guy he was. He went the extra mile for his customers; each one was special.

Al's chair.

Al’s chair.

And as I stood there, in front of Al’s empty barber chair, in a familiar place that was eerily quiet, I realized once again how special Al was; what he meant to the local community; and how countless family and friends, while currently in mourning and shock, had a lifetime of fond memories, funny stories, and special moments. The Clip Joint was “the best little hair house in Merchantville;” and I’m hopeful that it will be that way again. But not today. Today the lights are off; the chairs are empty; the door is closed. And sitting at the barber shop will never be the same.

God speed Al. You are – and always will be – remembered with love.





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