“I’m going to wait for the last haircut from the master,” said Bob Meronek, a 50-year-customer of Jim’s Barber Shop, 1342 Second St., Stevens Point, as he entered the shop Monday, Dec. 3.
Jim Graboski will cap more than 57 years as a barber and more than 50 years as owner of Jim’s Barber Shop, Dec. 28, when he passes the scissors and the keys to his colleague Jim Call.
“It’s time. It’s been a great run. We can’t ask for anything more,” said Graboski. “We’ve got a great business here and the other Jim is going to keep it going.”
Graboski said he will maintain his barber’s license so he can help out from time to time if Call needs him.
Graboski was born and raised in Stevens Point and got his first taste of the hair-cutting profession from a barber who was a friend of his father. “‘If you like it,’ he said, ‘you might want to consider it.’ So I did that and I liked it and I went to school in Milwaukee, the vocational school, and that’s how that happened.”
He graduated from P.J. Jacobs High School and started barber school in 1955. “In our day, you got out of high school and you either went into the service or else you got a job down there at the mills, or Lullabye or Joerns. And if you didn’t go into the service you went to college or you took up a trade, and I took up a trade.”
He worked in the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee during the second semester of his training. “They wanted me to eventually take over and manage it and I said, ‘No, I’m going back to Point.”
He started work with Al Frasch in Al’s Barber Shop in 1956 at the same location Jim’s Barber Shop is today. A haircut at that time cost $1.25, said Graboski.
He bought the shop from Frasch and renamed it Jim’s Barber Shop in 1961 when Frasch, a member of the National Guard, was called to active duty.
“There’s a lot of history here,” said Graboski, who said there has been a barber shop at that location for at least 80 years. “Before the barber shop it was part of the tavern,” said Graboski. “They used to have this for booths, because women didn’t go in the bars at that time.”
He said the Public Square was known as “the Devil’s Elbow” due to the number and dominance of the taverns back when he bought the business, but he never had too many problems. “This is probably one of the best locations in town,” Graboski said. “You have your ups and downs, but it’s been a great ride.”
He said there have been a couple of notable visits to his shop including one from former Green Bay Packers running back Jim Grabowski, who was brought there due to the similarity of his name with Graboski’s. Grabowski (the football player) signed the wall, which was later referenced in a professionally produced Stevens Point Brewery commercial that was filmed in the shop.
He said he never did much advertising for the business himself, preferring to rely on word of mouth and sticking to his roots as a traditional barber shop. “After the Vietnam War, guys were going to beauty shops,” said Graboski. “I just never wanted to get into any of the beauty work, for me it wasn’t my passion. I had enough to keep busy with what I’m doing now.”
He said people from all walks of life are drawn to the “melting pot” of a barber shop, not just for haircuts, but for camaraderie. “(The barber shop) is like apple pie and Chevrolets… There’s a need for it,” he said.
Chris Yahnke, a Jim’s Barber Shop regular and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said he remembers going to the barber shop with his dad as a kid growing up in Milwaukee and that a good barber shop was one of the first things he looked for when he moved here 10 years ago. “They’re just good folks,” said Yahnke, who said a barber shop helps provide a sense of community. “He knows my name when I walk in the door.”
Jim Call, who has been working at Jim’s Barber Shop since March and will take over the shop from Graboski, agreed. “It’s more of a traditional value and it’s something that is getting to be a lost art,” he said.
Call has about 26 years experience as a barber, including 17 years owning his own barber shop in Friendship.
He said he plans to keep things pretty much the same at Jim’s Barber Shop, including its name. He said the shop will still open at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, but will stay open later than its current 1:30 p.m. closing time, though he is still working out the exact hours.