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Sandpoint barber shop to close at end of month

by RALPH BARTHOLDT
Staff Writer | June 19, 2010 9:00 PM

SANDPOINT - The bear in the photograph was shot on Kodiak Island.

It is a black-and-white picture and the bear is stretched by its hind legs hanging face down behind a man hoisting a rifle.

"He shot that with a .30-40 Krag, with one shot," Mike Winslow says. "Shot it in the shoulder and it broke him down, a piece went into the heart."

Winslow, 68, is cutting hair in his Sandpoint shop and estimates, by barbershop standards, that the grizzly is 12 feet long.

Winslow's image is reflected in the window along with the store's fluorescent lights and the accouterments that surround him. There are deer heads, photographs, mounted fish and a cougar on a limb.

The reflections of his patrons sitting on old couches waiting their turn, are in the window, too, as they chime into the conversation, or listen with half an ear and a quip waiting in the wings.

Winslow has cut hair on or near Sandpoint's main drag for almost 50 years.

If he stayed in the shop until December, he would hit the half century mark, but that is not in the cards. He plans to close the business June 30.

"Anybody want to buy a barbershop?" he asks between clips.

He is not seriously looking for a seller, he adds, in part because anyone buying must have the proper credentials.

"You got to be uglier than me, and cut hair as bad as me," he says.

Not the formula one would expect from a barber as successful as Winslow.

At 79, Clarence Davis has been a patron longer than he cares to remember.

"I remember when you didn't have gray hair and a lot of it," Winslow says.

Davis laughs.

"That must have been a while ago," he says.

Larry Barton is in the chair with a morose look. He has been coming for a regular cut for almost a decade.

After the shop closes, what will he do for haircuts he is asked.

"I won't get one," Barton says laconically.

Winslow moved into the shop at 109 N. First Ave. in 1970 after working nine years down the street at Vern's.

"Shows you how long you have to work if you invest in booze and broads instead of stocks and bonds," he says.

He considers that his business is the oldest downtown.

"They ought to put you on display," Barton says.

One of the shop's traditions has been free bourbon and beef jerky during the holidays. Recalling the ritual draws a barrage of one-liners from waiting customers.

"December was a total loss," someone says.

"There were a lot of high school kids coming in," someone else says.

"The haircuts got better," another patron pipes up.

A testament to the shop's history are the wall hangings that hearken back to men and women no longer alive, but whose stories are still recounted.

More than 100 fishing plugs with the names of the patrons who left them, hang just below the ceiling.

Winslow's shop is as much a collection of stories and artifacts from a seemingly lost generation of sportsmen and women, as it is a barber shop. The local historical society has asked for some of the relics, but the stories likely will not be passed along. Not as prolifically as they were here, day in and day out, in this room for more than 40 years by the people who lived them as the clippers buzzed and the scissors snipped.

"There is a lot of history on that wall," Winslow says.

He has contacted the men and women who dropped the relics off over the years, so they can be returned.

Others no longer can.

"A lot of good friends aren't fishing anymore," he says.

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