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Shave and a haircut

These days, the barber's chair at Steve Trachsel's shop is more like a psychologist's couch than anything else.

Trachsel is owner of The Barber Pole, a 60-year-old barber shop in Birmingham, about 20 miles outside of Detroit. (For the uninitiated, B'ham is like Michigan's version of Beverly Hills – expensive homes, celebrity sightings, Rodeo Drive.)

“It's more than a business; it's a heirloom,” Trachsel said. “I love the longevity of it. It's a hidden treasure and a great place to hang out and talk.”

So, let's talk.

Q: Is this the worst time the shop has ever seen?
A: No, that would be the 1970s. The shop almost went bankrupt because no one was getting haircuts. Everyone had long hair, and haircuts were few and far between.

Q: What has business been like for you?
A: We do have a segment of our customers who are between jobs and we're hearing about tough times. But we haven't seen a drop in customers. Instead, there's been a pickup in the business. People have realized that they would rather pay $18 for a haircut here instead of $35 or more at a salon. … We see a lot of CEOs and bosses here because they live in Birmingham and they're coming in with long faces. They have to let people go, and they've already cut everyone they can. Now, they're subdividing and having to drop the hard workers, the good people who really shouldn't be let go.

Q: What is the mood in the shop generally?
A: Everyone is talking about tough times. They're looking for the bottom. They talk about the stock market. People really don't know what's going on. Even the investors and the experts don't know. It's been an uneasy time for everyone. … People who once had a bunch of money are humbled now. But we're making the best of what we have now.

Q: How did you become a barber?
A: I was a youth pastor at my church, and I wanted a job where I could be flexible to travel with our youth groups. A desk job wouldn't allow it. I needed a job where I could get time away. … I started at another barber shop then heard about (The Barber Pole). I called, but they didn't need help. Then, a spot came open. I was here about six years when I bought it from the original owners two years ago in October.

Q: Anybody famous come into the shop?
A: We get a lot of the car executives, Detroit Tigers, hockey coaches. Darren McCarty of the Red Wings brought in the Stanley Cup once in 2007 and there was a line out of the door to see it. One recent favorite was Evan Longoria with the Tampa Bay Rays. Generally, they're great people.

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