Fetterolf’s Barber Shop: A History Of Hair, Football, And Family Values
There’s something special about living and running a business in a college town — everything from the energy, to the rich history, to the friendly faces of regulars who drop in simply to say hello. For Fetterolf’s Barber Shop owner Donna Weaver, these are the perks of working in State College.
Fetterolf’s sits nestled within an underground nook on East College Avenue, inside a building that has been a State College hidden gem of sorts since the 1960s. According to Weaver, previous owner George Fetterolf purchased the barber shop in 1977 before she took over in 1990.
Weaver has been involved with hair for as long as she can remember. Her father’s work in the industry inspired her to get a head start at an early age. Growing up, the business was a family affair.
“I’ve cut hair almost all my life,” she said. “My dad was a barber, so I’ve been doing this since I was a little girl — my dolls’ hair, my sister’s hair. My mom would cry whenever that happened, of course.”
When Weaver first came to State College, she took a part time job at Rinaldo’s Barber Shop on Allen Street. After working there for ten years, she switched to Fetterolf’s to pursue full-time work. Now, Weaver owns two shops of her own. In addition to Fetterolf’s, she still runs George’s Barber Shop — her father’s old business — from inside her home.
“That’s actually why I eventually decided to drop the ‘George’ part of George Fetterolf’s Barber Shop,” Weaver said. “I guess it was just kind of funny that I happened to own two different barber shops that basically had the same name.”
Today, Fetterolf’s has four chairs and four barbers. Weaver, Denise Peddigree, Brittani Rivera, and Stephanie Hammond cut hair on an almost daily basis. Working in a close-knit environment within the State College community makes their job more enjoyable.
“It’s all about having the opportunity to meet people from different walks of life,” Weaver said. “In a town like this, you really do get to know everybody.”
The store boasts a sizable list of well-known regulars, and a few loyal customers have patronized Fetterolf’s for decades. Weaver has enjoyed the loyal business of Penn Staters such as former Alumni Association Executive Director Roger Williams, as well as Dr. Pete Bordi — Penn State professor and creator of Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink. From current students to longtime residents, Weaver enjoys getting the chance to connect with customers from all over the State College community.
Some of Fetterolf’s most valued customers are members of the Paterno Family. The barbers fondly remember cutting Jay, Scott, and David Paterno’s hair when they were young boys. Joe Paterno also stopped by on a regular basis.
“I still have his hair in a bag,” Peddigree said. “He used to come into the store and I’d just say, ‘Joe, Joe, can you sign this for me?’ with everything, and of course he would. I think he definitely learned to expect it when he came in.”
Shortly after Weaver began her job at Fetterolf’s, she spent much of her time cutting the hair of the football players themselves. Members of the team would often come into Fetterolf’s to get their hair cut in groups.
“Back in the day, all the players used to come in to get their hair cut pretty frequently,” Weaver said. “The store has always been busy on a daily basis, but that’s something I specifically remember from when I was starting out. Sometimes I run into Sue [Paterno] and it’s just fun to get to reminsice about that stuff.”
Throughout the years, working at Fetterolf’s has meant turning a day-to-day job into something much deeper. For each of the four barbers, working in State College has allowed them to garner countless valuable relationships within the community.
“It’s cutting hair, but at the end of the day, it’s really all about the people,” Weaver said.