Remembering Gary Joe Schultz, 56, Gary’s Barber Shop owner who gave out advice, candy and belly laughs is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Gary Joe Schultz
Gary Joe Schultz

At Gary’s Barber Shop in Oak Island, customers always left with more than just a haircut.

After sitting in Gary Joe Schultz’s chair, their cheeks were sore from smiling and their bellies were cramped from laughing along with him. Some customers received advice, kids were given lollipops and others were pranked.

One thing customers could agree on–he made every visit to Gary’s Barber Shop a memorable experience.

Mr. Schultz, of Boiling Spring Lakes, died suddenly on Aug. 8, 2015, at home. He was 56.

Oak Island Police Chief Van Eddinger said Mr. Schultz was “a clown without a clown suit,” a jovial barber who knew the all the juicy island gossip. Eddinger said if he wanted something spread around town, he’d share it with Mr. Schultz, confident that everyone on the island would know by the end of the day.

“He was a real good people person,” Eddinger said. “When you went in, you got to talk to somebody. You didn’t just sit there.”

Mr. Schultz also knew how to push people’s buttons in humorous ways, according to Charlie Miller, Chief Deputy with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr. Schultz cut Miller’s hair once a week for over 15 years, and Miller said he never knew what to expect when he walked in. Except, that is, when he was in on the pranks.

Miller and his best friend, Sam Watts, came in for a haircut the day before Watts was to be married. Knowing of his friend’s intense fear of snakes, Miller said he and Mr. Schultz conspired to play a little trick on the groom. Mr. Schultz talked to Watts as another barber slipped the head of a black snake, real but harmless, toward Watts.

“Man, he shot out of that chair like a rocket. He was out at the road and still had his smock on,” Miller laughed. “Gary was laying on the floor, laughing so hard.”

That snake was far from the only animal in Mr. Schultz’s shop, according to Michelle Beck, his 20-year business partner. When a squirrel decided to make a nest in the attic for her babies, Mr. Schultz “didn’t have the heart” to make her leave. Customers would often hear the pattering of the squirrel’s paws across the floor and the chittering discussions between her and her young.

“He wasn’t just a person you went to work with,” Beck said. “He was a person who made you want to go because you knew it would be fun and full of laughter.”

Beck said Mr. Schultz was “put on earth to make people happy” and turned every situation positive. Miller said he knew this from firsthand experience.

Miller’s wife’s grandfather, a paraplegic, was facing his last few months on earth and above all else, he wanted a haircut, Miller said. Miller talked to Mr. Schultz about doing a home visit, and later that day Mr. Schultz packed his little tool bag full of the necessities to cut the gentleman’s hair. When Miller stopped by, his wife’s grandfather was “laughing like you wouldn’t believe.”

“He went out of his way after hours to do that and he would not take a dime for it,” Miller said.

He was very accommodating of his customers, Miller said, including arriving at the shop before the sun was fully up to cut the hair of nuclear plant workers who had to be at work by 7 a.m. Miller said he was also a local favorite for children getting their hair cut for the first time.

A child’s first haircut can be traumatic, Miller said, and at other places he’d seen kids kicking, screaming and crying through the process, with the barber attempting to snip strands around flying limbs and tears. At Gary’s Barber Shop, he saw young children smiling.

Beck said one of his secrets was candy. When a child would start to cry, he’d grab a sucker and hand it to them, then give them space and time to calm down before starting to cut. Mr. Schultz also turned the end of a brush into a smiley face and would bring it out to make the kids laugh. When laughter didn’t work, he tried using a little fear.

Beck said Mr. Schultz told the children it was really important for them to stay still while he worked, otherwise he might cut their ear off. The ear, he explained, would then go into his jar of ears along with the rest of the ears he’d removed. One child stumped him, Beck said, when he asked to see the jar of ears. Having no jar to show, Mr. Schultz decided to stop using this method.

Overall, though, Mr. Schultz just made whomever sat in his chair comfortable and at ease, Beck said. People loved going there so much that, eventually, they had to make an appointment.

“He had a big heart. He cared about people, got to know people. He was part of everybody’s family and knew their children and grandchildren,” Miller said.

When people were in his chair, according to Beck, he listened to their problems and tried to help them work through it or find a solution. Beck said she opened the shop this week and customers who’d heard of his passing came to visit. They went to his station to cry, pray and say goodbye to Mr. Schultz.

Mr. Schultz was born in Richmond County on April 30, 1959, the son of Joel Schultz and Faye S. Robinson.

Survivors in addition to his parents include his partner, James Wright; feline companions, John Wayne and Nettie Jane; and very dear friend and business associate, Michelle Beck.

A celebration of life service was held Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, at Trinity United Methodist Church in Southport, with the Rev. Dr. Bryan Faggart officiating.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Trinity United Methodist Church Benevolence Fund, 209 E. Nash St., Southport, NC 28461.

To view the full list of Port City Daily obituaries, click here.

Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) ​772-6319 or