ROCHESTER, Minn. — When Lee Kirchner closes The Barber's Hut for the last time this July, there will be little sadness.
Even though he'll miss the memories he's made and the people he's served, he knows that it's time to put away his scissors and his razor. Kirchner has been cutting hair since the 1960s and has been owner of The Barber's Hut for the last 14 years, but all of those years of standing with few days off have made him ready to close up shop.
"Fifty years of standing and holding your arms up is a long time," Kirchner the Post-Bulletin .
When Kirchner does lock up the store, it will put an end to one of the most long-standing small businesses in Rochester. The Barber's Hut has been a fixture in town for nearly 50 years, and generations of its primarily male clientele still frequent the shop.
Fathers have brought their sons, and those sons grew up and brought their sons, Kirchner said. This means that he and former owners Larry Oefstedahl and Jerry Shanahan became close to customers and their families, leading to many lasting friendships and countless graduation party invites.
Those customers have remained loyal as well, coming back to the Barber's Hut despite the many options in town. Even on the rare occasion that they had to go to another shop while the owners were on vacations, those customers would be back the next time, asking one of the three to fix whatever damage was done to their hair.
"My customers here are loyal customers," Kirchner said. "If you do end up taking a couple weeks off for vacation, which is pretty rare, and they go someplace else, they'll be back right away and say 'Man, I went in there and they didn't know what I wanted.'"
Much like Oefstedahl and Shanahan before him, Kirchner will miss those people. By nature, all three love talking and interacting with people, and the connections made over the years will be tough to replace.
Neither Oefstedahl nor Shanahan really miss the actual work that it takes to own the business. Both have happily enjoyed retirement by traveling, playing golf and spending time with loved ones.
"We're just getting used to our wives again," Shanahan joked.
Similarly, Kirchner knows that now is the time to step away. His age, the long days and his daily commute from Lake City are contributing to the retirement decision.
This begs the question, what happens to The Barber's Hut going forward?
According to Kirchner, the Somalian restaurant that sits in the same complex, Muna Halal, will expand and take up the space where the barber shop sits. While the three owners don't necessarily like to see the shop go, they aren't distraught either.
"We drove by one day and my wife asked me if (the shop closing) bothered me," Oefstedahl said. "I said, 'A little bit, but not really.'"
Kirchner added that the owner of the restaurant has been an exceptional landlord and that his restaurant has needed the space for years. But the owner let Kirchner stay for as long as he wanted, turning down a lot of money from others looking to rent the space.
As for Kirchner, he said he'll use the free time to do things similar to what Oefstedahl and Shanahan are doing. Mainly, he said that he's going to enjoy the free time that he never really had during his working career and taking the kind of trips that his customers always told him about.
He added that he won't be cutting hair on the side either, other than for his young grandchildren.
Kirchner, Oefstedahl and Shanahan said they are thankful for all of the patrons who came through the doors during the last five decades, and added that they look forward to keeping in touch with them going forward.
"The Barber's Hut wants to thank everyone who supported us over the years," Kirchner said. "It's been a fun ride."
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Post-Bulletin.