Jack Messer is hanging up his straight edge.
Messer, a barber, has been cutting hair for more than 40 years — 18 of them — at Jack’s Old Fashioned Barbershop in downtown Gardner.
“I’ve got guys that are bringing their kids in now,” Messer said. “I cut their hair from the time they were 6,7, 8 years old.”
Barbering is something of a family business. Messer’s brother, Max, owns a barbershop in Olathe. And it was Max who first encouraged Messer to attend cosmetology school.
At the time, Messer had been a union carpenter for 18 years.
“I got tired of fighting the weather and the political crap,” he said of his former career.
Messer didn’t mind the carpentry work, but he missed spending his days around people. His parents owned a neighborhood tavern, and Messer remembers those customers being like family.
“Back in those days, if someone wasn’t (at the tavern) by 4:30 or 5, you worried about them,” Messer said. “It was a community. I’ve always worked around the public. I love people — most people.”
His brother suggested Messer learn to cut hair.
“I went to school in 1975 when everybody was wearing long hair,” Messer said.
When he finished cosmetology training, Messer worked at a styling salon. Barbershops were going out of business, because men were wearing their hair long.
“Barbers were too darn stubborn to cut long hair,” Messer recalled.
Messer was willing to do it, but he didn’t love it. He once owned a beauty salon with seven other stylists.
When he decided to set up a barbershop in Gardner, there was another barber in town — Sandy Pritchard. The barbershop community is a small one.
“I came to town, and I wanted to talk to Sandy out of respect,” Messer said. “Sandy said there’s more than enough business here for both of us. So I went around the corner. He was a good old man.”
Messer has been cutting hair at Jack’s Old Fashioned Barbershop ever since.
“I consider 95 percent of the people that walk through that door to be good friends,” Messer said. “I’ve got a lot of great people that come in. This town, it’s hard for me to describe how I appreciate it.”
When his health started failing last summer, Messer decided it was time to think about retirement. At the end of April, he sold the shop Gene Serber.
“I’ve known him for more than 40 years,” Messer said. “I would like for everyone to give him a chance and come in and meet him. He’s a nice guy and cuts a good head of hair.”
Local barber hangs up straight edge razor; owned shop for 18 years