Joe Jost's: From Barber Shop to Bar
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 19:11
Beer, peanuts, bar stools, the clink of beer glasses, all this can be found in bars across the country. But at Joe Jost's in Long Beach, it's more about the experience than just the beer.
First opened in 1924 as a barbershop, Joe's – as the regulars call it – was started by Joe Jost, a man of Hungarian roots who came to the United States through Ellis Island in New York. Jost traveled through the United States and settled in southern California.
"Times were tough back then," said Ken Buck, owner and the grandson of Joe Jost. "My grandfather started serving sandwiches and beer in 1934 (after prohibition ended) and still had his barbershop."
Safety issues regarding the cutting of hair while also serving food and the numbers in profits drove Jost to look at his books and then decide to turn his barbershop into a full-time bar with a friendly environment.
"Joe's is the kind of place where if you haven't been back in five years, you can come back and feel comfortable, feel the same as you did before," said Buck.
Not too much has changed at Joe's since it first opened, with only a few minor changes like air conditioning, a Marmion peanut roaster that is more than 100 years old and a blizzard beer system that keeps beer at a constant temperature of 28 degrees.
When patrons walk into Joe's, it takes a few seconds to take in the scenery. There's a loud chatter of people talking all around the room, but there are also smiles coming from behind the bar. Joe's may look small from the outside, but once inside, one can see the exterior does not do justice to the interior of the bar.
For those visiting for the first time, there are a number of things to try from the menu. Joe's is well known to customers for its beer, the "special" and the pickled eggs. The "special" is a Polish sausage on rye bread with Swiss cheese, mustard and a pickle. Of course there are those who come for some freshly roasted peanuts as well.
"I love coming to Joe's for the roasted peanuts and the ice cold beer," said Ronnie Grenawalt, a Long Beach resident who's been coming to Joe's for forty years. Grenawalt first started coming to Joe's when he was 22-years-old, and five years ago he introduced his friend Randy Larkin to Joe's.
"I've met a lot of old friends, guys I hadn't seen in 30 or 40 years," Grenawalt said. "It's a good place to hang out."
Among many customers, the common refrain is that Joe's is a place where you can find old and new friends.
"The people that come in, it's a place where even if you don't know the person, you can sit down and talk with them -- it's not pretentious," said Randy Reynolds of Long Beach. "Joe Jost's is the West Coast's ‘Cheers'."
For Shawn Flathers, who has been a bartender at Joe's for 26 years, working at Joe's is like working with family. "There is a family atmosphere," he said. "I love the customers; everyone gets along very well."
Not only known for its friendly atmosphere, Joe's popularity reaches beyond borders and across seas around the world.
"One customer took a picture while wearing his Joe Jost's T-shirt on vacation by the Wall of China and sent the picture back," Buck said. "Soon after, we had more people doing the same thing and now we have a wall of pictures with customers wearing their T-shirts around the world."
Joe's can also be seen on the big screen. As one of the oldest taverns in Long Beach, it has been used in the film industry many times. "Joe's has been used many times as a film set – the last film was "License to Wed" with Robin Williams," said Buck. "Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall have also shot films here."
Joe's has been on screen, on the back of T-shirts all over the world, and has stood in the same location in Long Beach since 1924, but these are not the reasons why customers come to Joe's. Regardless if you like beer, pickled eggs, or you just want to hang out, Joe Jost's is a place that fits anyone who wants to have a good time.
As Ken Buck explained, "Coming to Joe's is like coming home."