One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

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.

  • Print
  • Comment
Comments (2)
Post a Comment »
  • 1

    Well this is a nice human intrest blog. Good to see something happy. A few of these every now and then would be nice. Its like a little sugar in the lemonade, takes the bitterness of life down a notch.

  • 2

    Love this story. It would be really great for the national media to print more stories detailing the feeling amongst the people of metro Detroit. Most of the nation has no idea how widespread or long-lasting Detroit's troubles have been. I moved my family to Connecticut in March, and as I speak with people here about Detroit, detailing what my home there was worth two years ago, as compared to what it's worth now, how many people I know that have been put out of work, etc. their jaws drop in shock. Detroit's collective critical illness is the country's best-kept secret, and it's time people became aware...if no one takes note, these problems will be coming to a town near you...

Add Your Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The Detroit Blog Daily E-mail

Get e-mail updates from TIME's The Detroit Blog in your inbox and never miss a day.

More News from Our Partners

Quotes of the Day »

NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.