A family tradition: Neighborhood barber has been cutting hair in community since 1980
A generation ago sheriff Andy Taylor, deputy Barney Fife and the men and boys of the fictional television town known as Mayberry would gather at Floyd’s Barber Shop to talk about the news of the day, give opinions and, when needed, actually have their hair cut.
In the 1960s, all television viewers could relate to what was happening at Floyd’s because there was a Floyd’s Barber Shop in every town.
Bemidji was large enough to support a handful of Floyd’s but time and the explosion of the chain beauty salons are taking their toll on the neighborhood icons.
The yellow pages for the city of Bemidji currently list only four active barber shops, but a few pages later you will find 21 beauty salons plus a beauty school.
“There used to be more local barber shops but when barbers retire there really is no one to take their place,” said Ted LaFriniere, who owns and operates The Headquarters in Bemidji.
“I know the barber school I attended in St. Paul after high school is closed. And there must be a reason for that.” he said.
LaFriniere has been cutting hair in the community since 1980, when he joined his dad, Jim, as the local barbers in downtown Bemidji.
A year earlier, Cliff Morlan was looking for a partner for his barber shop and Jim LaFriniere joined the business. Later in 1979 Jim bought the business and in 1980 Ted arrived to work the other barber chair.
“When I graduated from high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do so dad suggested that I go to barber school,” LaFriniere said. “He said that I would always have this to fall back on. And then I found out that being a barber was what I wanted to do.”
Jim and Ted cut hair together for 26 years. Jim died in 2006, and Ted has since worked solo at The Headquarters.
When LaFriniere opens his door he isn’t sure who will step in. There is no such thing as a typical customer but all who sit in his chair are seeking the same thing.
“My customers come from all walks of life. They range from successful businessmen to retired farmers,” LaFriniere said. “And the vast majority of them ask for uncomplicated haircuts.”
LaFriniere’s clients are all men and that is by choice. He has no desire to start styling women’s hair.
“Basically, I do haircuts,” he said. “My daughter has to go to a hair stylist now because I don’t do women’s hair.
“But I do get satisfaction from cutting men’s hair.”
Being the local barber is not a job for everyone but LaFriniere said it is the perfect job for him.
“I like it at The Headquarters,” said LaFriniere, who also is an accomplished woodworker. “I couldn’t imagine going to a job every day that you don’t enjoy.
“One thing you have to have is a gift for gab. You have to be a good listener and a good talker,” LaFriniere continued. “When people come in they want to talk about the topics of the day. You need to have an opinion of what’s going on in the world but you can’t shove it down people’s throats.”
LaFriniere and The Headquarters have become integral elements in the Bemidji community and will continue to fill the role of a neighborhood barber shop. The future of the profession, however, is less clear.
“I think being a barber is a dying breed,” LaFriniere said. “It’s not a profession for everybody. Every strip mall seems to have a hairstyling salon and I really don’t know how a barbershop can compete with that.
“Perhaps it’s the cost (haircuts by a barber usually are cheaper than one at a salon). Perhaps it’s the convenient locations or the tradition of the neighborhood barber shop. There must be something but I really don’t know for what it is,” he added.
The men at Floyd’s would know. Mayberry real estate agent Howard Sprague knows.
“The barbershop is a town tradition,” Sprague told Floyd during an episode of the “Andy Griffith Show.”
“A town without a barber shop would be in desperate straits.”