The Story of Jude

Jude’s Barbershop was named after my father Wilbur Jude Martin.  He was born on Beaver Island, which is located in Northern Lake Michigan, 35 miles north of Charlevoix.

~ Thomas

Airplane on ice Beaver Island
Airplane on frozen over St. James Harbor, Beaver Island
Young Jude
Young Jude
Old Jude
Old Jude

When my Grandmother was about to give birth to my father, the nuns on Beaver Island called to Charlevoix to summon the doctor. They were told that the doctor was in jail for performing an abortion. The year was 1938 and abortion was illegal. My Grandmother was a small lady and the nuns did not think she would live through the delivery because my father was so big. This made it all that more important that the doctor be present during the delivery. They convinced the judge to temporarily release the doctor to deliver my father. The doctor was flown from Charlevoix to Beaver Island on the night of March 20th. Saint James harbor was still frozen over so they had everyone on the island bring their Christmas trees out on the ice to light on fire when they heard the airplane’s engines overhead. The modest “runway lights” helped to guide the pilot to a safe landing and the doctor delivered my father the next day. Because of all the trouble with my fathers’ birth, the nuns told my Grandmother to name him “Jude” after Saint Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes.


Owned and operated by a local West Michigan family who were born, raised, live and play in Michigan.

Thomas and Heather
Owners Thomas and Heather

Our Hairy Life

Heather and Thomas Martin started Jude’s Barbershop in 2005.  Heather worked for a company named Success Club, which went out of business (extreme irony) sometime in 1997.  This provided the opportunity for her to pursue her dream of becoming a hairstylist so she enrolled in Chic beauty school. After graduating and receiving her license, she was hired by Panopoulos Salons at their East Beltline location.

From 1997 to 2000, Thomas worked for Meijer in their Properties department as an Architectural Engineer.  In 1999, Thomas and Heather purchased a Fantastic Sams franchise.  At first, Heather didn’t want to leave Panopoulos to work at a Fantastic Sams.  But after a few months, she was so badly needed that she reluctantly left Panopoulos to manage their newly franchised salon.  About a year later, they severed ties with Fantastic Sams and started Studio 1 Hair & Tanning Salon. 

In 2004 Heather became pregnant, and they wanted to find another business to supplement their income so Heather could spend time with their new baby.  During a meeting with a shampoo salesman, Thomas learned of several barbershops owned by the salesman’s cousin in the Portland OR area.  After several phone calls and a lot of research, they started Jude’s Barbershop in its first location in downtown Grand Rapids which opened in August of 2005.  They offered free haircuts during the first week they opened for business.

Thomas at Jude's Gaslight Village buildout.

Thomas and his father share the same middle name; Jude.  Both of their backgrounds are in the construction business.  With his construction background, Thomas did the build-out for most of the Jude’s Barbershops.

Jude’s Barbershop is truly a family business with Thomas and Heather working behind the scenes.  Granny Dee (Tom’s mom) counts the deposits.  The Operations Manager is Elle (Tom’s daughter).  Jeremiah (Elle’s husband) is the maintenance guy.  Accounts payable is handled by Paige (Tom’s daughter).  Megan (Tom’s daughter) was instrumental at the begin of Jude’s and provides support from time to time. 

Grandpa Jude provided an excellent story for the name; JUDE.  He was also the one who told Thomas and Heather not to get into the hair business because, at the time, they didn’t know anything about it. 

Early days of Jude's Barbershop

Megan, Paige and Elle

Jude’s Barbershop has always been a family business with Megan, Elle and Paige (Tom’s daughters)  back in the early days out promoting the first Jude’s Barbershop in downtown Grand Rapids MI.  Their hard work, dedication and devotion is one of the reasons Jude’s Barbershop is so successful.

Jude’s Barbershop would not be successful without all of the hard work, dedication, determination, talent, and sacrifice from all its team members, both past and present. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer

Jude’s Barbershop opened its first location in August 2005. We had this great idea of offering a free beer to each customer who was legally old enough to drink alcohol.  The idea came from the old fashion barbershop experience.  Customers loved the free beer idea, but some busybodies did not.  There were obscure ordinances in different municipalities that were found and brought to the attention of Sheriffs in Ottawa and Kent Counties.  We received a cryptic letter regarding what was legally permitted.  Our interpretation was different than the authorities and eventually, the vice squad raided 4 of our barbershops on Christmas Eve and confiscated all of our beer, including the refrigerators.  Bah humbug!  We made a request to the Michigan Attorney General for an opinion on giving away free beer.  The opinion stated; it was illegal, so we had to stop giving the free beer.

This is the last of our beer which was donated.
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