Owner Marlene Anderson is retiring after 44 years of barbering in Summerside and is moving to Halifax next week to be closer to her family.
Saturday is her last official day of being open for business. She’s booked solid and has a waiting list of people hoping to get just one last cut.
She’s also got a stack of good luck cards on her counter and her phone has been ringing steadily from people who, if they can’t get a haircut, at least want to wish her well.
“It’s going to be hard,” said Anderson as she worked on long-time customer Frank Parslow.
“You become pretty good friends with people.”
Parslow too wished Anderson well, though he did it with tongue firmly in cheek.
“I think I’ll have to go to the courts on this one – get a stay order. I would have expected at least three years’ notice. I think three years will just about take me as long as I’ve got,” he said, with a laugh.
He’s not the only one playfully threatening legal action to keep Anderson in business. Some of her customers say they’re going to sue because they had hair when they started going to her business (40+ years ago), but it has since turned gray and fallen out.
Others say they plan to rent a bus and show up on her doorstep as a group the next time they need a cut.
Anderson takes their good-natured ribbing in stride, and gives it back as good as she gets.
“I’m gonna miss all these guys. This has been my life,” she said.
Anderson started her working career as a nurse, but quickly decided that profession wasn’t for her. There was, however, one aspect of nursing she did enjoy, which was looking after her patients’ hair. It was, after all, an act she’d been fascinated with her whole life.
As a little girl she’d go with her father on his visits to the local barbershop. She always enjoyed those trips and recalls it being a place of great laughter and camaraderie.
“I used to find it so fascinating to sit there and listen to these old fellas talking about everything. I think that must have been where I kind of got the idea that this is a fun place to work.”
After training as a barber in Halifax, where she is originally from, Anderson moved to Summerside with her first husband, also a barber, and set up a shop on Notre Dame Street. She was there for about five years before moving her studio to Poplar Avenue. She’s worked out of her home shop ever since.
It’s been a good career, she said, and an interesting one – especially given that she trained specifically as a barber, so almost all of her customers are male.
She has a great relationship with them, she said, and enjoys hearing all their stories – and more than a little gossip.
“It’s not even about cutting hair, there’s so much more than that. It’s an experience and I love the experience of coming in here,” she noted.
“This is my social life.”
“You see this chair? This chair, if it could talk,” she said, letting that particular thought trail off.
One long-time customer actually offered to buy Anderson’s barber’s chair “for his man cave,” but she’d already arranged to sell it to someone else.
She’s going to miss her business, she said, but she’s going to hang on to her scissors, just in case.
You never know – her customers could make good on their threat of showing up on her new Halifax doorstep.
“I never say goodbye. I just say so long because I still believe we’ll see each other again.”