SAN BERNARDINO - Jerry Moya's business is a lost art.

His expertise? All types of haircuts, and straight-razor shaves in which customers' faces are wrapped in the soothing calm of a hot towel.

He's been called "Jerry the old-time barber" and "big papa Jerry."

A 15-year veteran of the barbering profession, Moya owned Jerry's Barber Shop, a bit of nostalgia tucked into a strip mall on Route 66, a symbol of the thriving days of the Mother Road.

The shop, at Fifth Street and Mount Vernon Avenue, was a step back in time, covered from floor to ceiling with old photos and signs, vintage toys, guitars, hats, and Route 66 memorabilia.

He endured while costs went up and income went down, but on the last day of November, Moya closed his doors for the final time, another statistic of the struggling economy.

House and car payments, medical bills, utilities - it's a balancing act, Moya says.

He does not consider himself a victim.

"The decision to close was instant, but devastating. I did what my heart told me to do and left everything in God's hands, then moved forward," says Moya, who has lived in San Bernardino for 50 of his 55 years.

"There are times when God closes a door but opens another door for you to enter. It made me realize that part of my life was over but there would be new opportunities," he said.

He considers himself blessed.

His journey has been one of discovery - and relying on a higher power for the direction he takes.

Between 2003 and 2009, he was a fire commissioner in San Bernardino; he also helped with a youth boxing program at the Home of Neighborly Service and assisted with the campaign of Councilwoman Virginia Marquez.

Nowadays, he's taken another path and still giving back to the community.

Moya volunteers at San Bernardino Barber & Beauty College at Sixth Street and Sierra Way. Until he gets his teaching certificate, he volunteers as a student teacher, instructing about 30 students, based on his own knowledge and experience.

His job also calls for some mentoring.

"I tell the guys in barber school, 'Don't come here and expect to be called a barber if you just pass the test to cut hair. We can't call you a barber if you just cut hair. You're not a barber unless you are good with a straight razor."

On a recent Wednesday, Moya demonstrated haircutting techniques on Oscar Brown, an 18-year-old student from San Bernardino.

Tommy Avila, 27, of Fontana is a barber student who enrolled at the school in November.

"I like the way he teaches - he teaches all the old-school stuff," Avila said.

"Jerry is a good teacher, always hands-on with the students so they understand the importance of what they are doing," said fellow teacher Jenny Morales, an instructor for both barber and cosmetology classes.

Moya said he considers teaching a learning process.

"We continue working on it until we get it. I'm a student - I'm still learning, I'll never stop learning," he said.

To help pay the bills, Moya also works at two local barber shops: Wilson's Barber Shop and Shave Parlor on Cajon Street in Redlands, and Marie's Beauty Salon at 1338 W. Fifth St. in San Bernardino.

Moya's wife, Yvonne Ramos Moya, is ill and unable to work, so Moya admits they are going through "a little struggle now," but he knows that God will look out for them.

"All the pressure falls on the barber shop, but I have so much faith in God that I know in the end he will bless me and my wife and my business."

The economy drove him from one path to another and along the way he is helping others.

"All my life I chased money and I never got any," he said. "I was born with nothing and I finally realized the best thing for me to do is enjoy life and do the best I can and separate myself from negativity. The negativity will always be there to knock you down, but I just have to keep going forward to the day I die."


Reach Michel via email, find her on Twitter @michelnolan, or call her at 909-386-3859.