April 17, 2019 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  Ashby barber to hang up his clippers
   
 
  For 52 years, Mark Koefod has been welcoming customers to his barber chair.
 

Around noon on Saturday, April 27, Ashby barber Mark Koefod will seat old friend and classmate Donny Grover in his barber chair and cut his hair... for the last time! The two have had an agreement that Grover will be Koefod’s last customer when he retires after 52 years. Following the trim, the two will join others for a picnic in the yard of Mark’s Barber Shop, and it will not open again.

Mark Koefod, 79, grew up in Ashby, and by the time he graduated in 1957, he had decided he wanted to be a barber. He signed up for barber school in the Twin Cities, but first had to fulfill his obligation to Uncle Sam, and served a stint in the Navy. When he was discharged in 1960, there was a waiting list to get into barber school so it was another two years before he could take the six to seven month course, to get his license and take a two year apprenticeship.

“Everybody went to the barber in the early 60s,” said Koefod. “Many men went every morning for a shave. I liked shaving, but the first place I worked didn’t do any shaving.”

After an apprenticeship in Richfield, he got a job in St. Louis Park, then went back to Richfield for awhile, before opening his own shop in downtown Ashby in 1967.

When his brother built an apartment building in 1970, he built a barber shop in it, and Koefod moved in. He has been there ever since.

“Back in those days, farm families all came to town on Saturday night, and the barber shop was a popular place for men to hang out.”

The air was thick with cigarette smoke, and talk of sports, hunting, and women. Many a young man, waiting for a haircut, also got an education.

The men would tell Koefod to “take a little off the top,” and the boys, invariably got a flattop.

Ten years later, men were wearing their hair longer, and it was a more challenging time for barbers.

“I never became a stylist.”

Mark’s Barber Shop was always the domain of men, as Koefod said he has never cut women’s hair “willingly.”

Lately, the flattop, or buzz cut, has come back in style and Koefod was ready. However, he admits, while it used to be the fathers that took their boys to the barber shop, now it is the mothers, who take them to hair salons.

Still business has always been pretty good at Mark’s Barber Shop, as he has his regular customers who come to him for a trim, and to hear the latest gossip. In fact, he is not retiring because business is bad, he is retiring because his legs are bad.

“I am open three hours a day, five days a week, and when I am busy I’m on my feet for three hours, and that is too much.”

Koefod claims, in the first 40 years he was in business, he never took a vacation.

“I didn’t want to miss anything.”

But when his first wife, Yvonne, passed away in 1999, and he remarried, his wife Marcia, said “lets go,” and they went... to Mexico... and Hawaii! After a few days back at the shop, he is all caught up on the local happenings.

When Mark’s Barber Shop closes on April 27, it will be more than the loss of a business in Ashby, it will be the loss of a unique institution. Like most real barber shops, the walls of Mark’s shop are full of cartoons and jokes, some a little risque, and photos of sports heros, from Roger Maris to Koefod’s kids and grandkids. He seldom missed a game. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time. The centerpiece is his magnificent, shiny barber’s chair, the only one he has used in his shop.

“My son Craig said he wants it,” said Koefod.

He has two boys and a girl, who will be giving their dad an open house picnic when he closes down at noon on April 27. The entire town, and every head he has ever known, are all invited.

   
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April 16, 2019