Mohn hangs up his scissors

Longtime Lakeville barber retires

Lakeville’s historic downtown often serves as a bridge connecting the city’s rural village past with its suburban present.

For more than 50 years, Bud Mohn cut hair. Most of that time was spent at his own shop. He sold the place last year to Tom Rice and retired on Oct. 27. Mohn is pictured cutting Jim Garvin’s hair. Photo by Aaron Vehling.

Situated in downtown Lakeville on Holyoke is TR’s Barber Shop, which embodies this spirit.

The barbers and their customers hang out, rib each other about the topics of the day and even experience a haircut or two.

Reuben “Bud” Mohn cut hair for 53 years, spending the bulk of that as owner  and operator of his barbershop, which he sold to Tom Rice (the “TR”) last year in anticipation of an Oct. 27 milestone: After 53 years (and decades of hairstyle trends), Mohn has retired.

The shop celebrated the retirement with a party and open house.

For 40 of 53 years as owner of the shop, Mohn cut hair alone. Rice joined in the late 1990s after more than 30 years with the Navy. Tracy Henry is the latest addition, taking on his chair in 2000 after Mohn cut his hours down to two days a week.

“I enjoy working here,” Rice said. After working high up at places like the Pentagon, the shop is a Godsend.

“There’s no stress,” Rice said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

When Mohn, 82, opened his shop in the late 1950s/early 1960s, Lakeville had only about 700 people. As the only barber in town, that posed a challenge.

“It was hard to keep up,” he said, with a laugh.

In addition to the men of the village stopping by, farmers would drive into town on their tractors for haircuts.

A haircut was cheaper then, too: 75 cents compared to $16 today.

“Lakeville was a lot different then,” Mohn said. “The stores all closed at 5:30 p.m. every day.”

Friday nights were the only time businesses stayed open.

“That’s when the farmers came into town” to run errands and do business, Mohn said. There would be free movies for kids shown  by the grain elevators.

Those were busy nights for Mohn.

“Sometimes I wouldn’t get home until 11 o’ clock at night,” he said.

Mohn got his start 58 years ago as a barber in Faribault and Northfield, though he’s almost a lifelong Lakeville resident.

“My uncle was a barber and he did well in it,” he said. “It has always been good to me.”

He graduated from Lakeville High School in 1948. He went off to St. Olaf College in Northfield for about six months before he was drafted into the Army because of the Korean War. Mohn was assigned as a tank driver, spending his two years in Alaska.

Mohn’s Barber Shop’s first location was in the former space of Gephart’s furniture store. He cut the hair of most of Lakeville’s pioneering families, including the Ericksons, Enggrens and Gepharts. He moved around a bit before settling into the current longtime spot near the post office.

Over the course of the 53 years, Mohn’s customers have loyally followed him.

As this reporter visited TR’s last week, a number of customers went through the shop.

Tom Hammer said he keeps coming back because “I like Reuben.”

A 43-year-old customer named Doug had been getting his hair cut at Mohn’s/TR’s since he was old enough to have hair.

“They’re good haircuts,” he said. “There are also good stories. … Never a lack of conversation.”

Jim Garvin, who lives on Lakeville’s northern border with Burnsville, was a newcomer, visiting the barber shop for a second time.

“I just stumbled into it,” Garvin said. “I don’t get to downtown Lakeville very much.”

There were challenges during these 53 years, too. The 1970s was a time of cultural and economic turmoil.  Mohn needed to augment his income.

“I sold vacuum cleaners on the side,” he said. “I also took up cutting women’s hair.”

There was also a close call with the IRS, a story that Mohn humbly let Rice tell on his behalf.

The representative stopped by and performed his investigation, assuming Mohn owed back taxes. As he was leaving, Rice said, he turned to Mohn and said, “We owe you $700.”

Both men laughed. Then Mohn started talking about  the different styles of haircut he has had to adapt to over the years.

Boys and men started wearing their hair long in the 60s and 70s, a stark contrast to the crew cuts and short hair of previous decades.

“It started when the Beatles started getting popular,” Mohn said.

Then came the Vietnam War era and the change that entailed.

“There were a lot of fights in the barber shop” between parents and their sons over hairstyles, Mohn said.

Later on came mohawks. Two local boys came in one day and told Mohn they had their parents’ permission to each get one.

Their mother was not pleased, Mohn said.

Mohn will spend some of his retirement “up North” at his place on Leech Lake, he said. There he plans to fish a lot and work on lawn care; and also spend time with his wife, Berniece. There will be time for his adult children and grandchildren, too.

During the interview, the subject of locally-owned barbershops came up. How long will non-chain shops in Lakeville continue to function as a bridge between the past and the present?

“They’ll succeed,” Rice said. “Bud has cut all different kinds of people’s hair” and at least 85 to 90 percent return.

“It’s a place where you can relax and talk how you want to talk,” Rice said. “What’s said here stays here.”