Dick & Gene: Still clipping along

  • Article by: PORTRAITS IN WORDS, PICTURES BY GAIL ROSENBLUM and JIM GEHRZ
  • Updated: March 16, 2012 - 2:24 PM

Dick Kramer, 64, and Gene Tuftin, 58, are traditional guys, which means you won't find them on Facebook or Twitter. Their social network is called good old-fashioned, customer-is-always-right service at their Edina barbershop.

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Dick Kramer (right, with customer Scott Reeves), owner of Dick's Sports Barbers in Edina, has worked side-by-side with fellow barber Gene Tuftin.

Photo: JIM GEHRZ, Star Tribune

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Dick Kramer, 64, and Gene Tuftin, 58, are traditional guys, which means you won't find them on Facebook or Twitter. Their social network is called good old-fashioned, customer-is-always-right service.

"Gene and I have 60 bosses a day," Dick deadpans. "Thirty in his chair and 30 in mine."

Dick bought the Edina barbershop, now called Dick's Sports Barbers, in 1968 at age 20. He paid $1,500. He worked alone for 19 years to the day before hiring Gene, shown sweeping up, who hated college but loved cutting hair.

"I trust Gene more than anybody I know," Dick says. "He's consistent and dependable. I'm his employer, but he never has taken advantage of that to shift his status. When he's here, I don't worry about anything."

Gene thinks the two are starting to look alike: "Same gray hair with not much on top anymore, same readers and pot bellies."

But enough of the bragging. It's their relationship that counts. Nearly 25 years of standing side by side, 6,500 names in the database, three generations of clients, soon to be four. Dick and Gene are there for the first haircut and the last, and every milestone in between; confirmations and bar mitzvahs, proms and graduations, weddings and pre-vacation trims.

Dick estimates that he's given 350,000 haircuts over 44 years. He's expanded his shop to eight chairs but it's still hard to get into one on a typical bustling Saturday morning when the place is packed with judges and doctors and construction workers and shaggy-topped teenage boys trying to pretend that their mothers aren't waiting for them.

"We'll go for a day sometimes without saying a word to each other," Dick says.

But they do pay attention to each other's clients. Once Dick noticed that the guy in Gene's chair was turning gray. Heart attack.

"He came in a few weeks later," Dick says. "I keep a wary eye on him. Nobody dies in my chair."

Dick's "a good guy," Gene says. "I've tried to emulate his way of treating customers. He's respectful and he gives the best haircut in town."

It's easy when you love your work.

"This isn't a business," Dick says. "It's a life."


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