Weather Forecast


Barber ‘flunks’ retirement: Now cutting hair at two shops

Dennis “Denny” Dawson shows how he takes care of his only customer, his son, Dean, at what Denny calls “the best barber shop in the state of Minnesota.” Tribune photo by Gary Miller

SPICER — Since hanging up his clippers in May, barber Dennis “Denny” Dawson has had plenty to keep him busy. There’s been golf, fishing, playing bridge at the Willmar Community Center and taking care of the large lawn at the Dawson home near Henderson Lake. But when friends ask him how it’s going, he often replies, “I flunked retirement.” Not only is he cutting hair again, he’s working at two establishments: one where the clientele is pretty exclusive and another where he can maintain contact with customers he’s known for decades. The place he calls “the best barber shop in the state of Minnesota” is in the basement of his son Dean’s home on Elkhorn Lake. There an alcove is filled with items from the shop in Willmar that Denny closed last spring. Dean asked for the barber pole from his dad’s shop. He now also has Denny’s chair, counter and mirror. “All I want is free haircuts for the rest of my life,” Dean recently told his father. Dean has been a financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial for 21 years. He works Monday through Wednesday in Eden Prairie, and can telecommute from his lake home the rest of the week. There’s another piece of area business history in Dean’s basement — the bar from the Red Star Bar that used to be in Lake Lillian. The family of Dean’s fiancée, Betty Damhof, owned the Red Star but sold it before it burned down. The couple intends to marry this summer. Denny is also working Mondays at Bellezza Salon and Spa in nearby Spicer. When Bellezza owner Kris Baker asked Denny to come cut hair at her shop when she saw him at a restaurant, Denny thought she was kidding. Then Baker followed up with call a few days later. Denny said he’s established a Monday morning routine Not a late sleeper, he’s usually in Spicer at the Westwood Café for breakfast before 6 a.m., then he heads to Mel’s Sport Shop for another cup of coffee and is at Bellezza before 6:30 a.m. Often someone’s waiting for him. It’s not unusual for him to have three customers by 7:30 a.m. “It would have been a much longer winter without it,” Denny said of his Mondays at Bellezza. Customers come from throughout the area: Willmar, Kerkhoven, the Twin Cities, Sacred Heart. Some have been his customers for the entire 54 years that he had a shop in Willmar. And now, they still are his customers, Denny said.


Barber returns to work for a third time

Gary Miller

Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

(320) 214-4344