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Unconventional barber: Longtime Bowman barber Greg Steiner finds success with second shop in Hettinger

HETTINGER -- Red, white and blue swirling barber poles are an iconic symbol that are being seen less and less. Greg Steiner has had to become creative in his barbering career to keep his businesses alive in an art form that is slowly becoming les...

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Greg Ste

HETTINGER - Red, white and blue swirling barber poles are an iconic symbol that are being seen less and less.

Greg Steiner has had to become creative in his barbering career to keep his businesses alive in an art form that is slowly becoming less common.

Steiner runs a shop in Hettinger for one week and a shop in Bowman one week, and both shops are located on Main Street in the respective towns.

He worked at the barber shop in Bowman after graduating barber college but took a hiatus to work other jobs because of the slow pace of the work.

“I would be busy for a week and then stand around for a week,” he said about his original location in Bowman.

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His shop in Bowman is attached to the Bowman Theater that his family has owned, as well as the barber shop connected to it.

His mom, dad, aunt and uncle ran the theater for 34 years before he, his wife and sister purchased it 13 years ago.

For 12 years, he cut hair and gave shaves in the same chair and the same shop attached to the theater, after he graduated barber college in 1989, until he took time away.

During his time away from being a barber, he did other jobs. His last job before returning to the barber trade was laying carpet. After that, he decided to switch on the swirling pole again. 

But this time he switched on two.

“I decided to get off my knees and get on my feet while I could still do it by myself,” Steiner said. “So, I knew if I came back and did the same thing as I did before, that it was going to turn out the same way that it did before. So if I can’t go deeper in the client pool because there aren’t more people around than there were before, I’d have to go wider.”

Steiner decided to become a two-town barber. He reopened the Bowman shop and started a new one in Hettinger.

He has been transitioning from one shop to the next weekly since October.

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He said that he has been doing better in Hettinger because there is less competition.

“There’s very few people in Hettinger cutting hair,” he said. “But it’s been going well. I try to be busy at all times and help as many people as possible.

“Hettinger is a good town. I didn’t have any second thoughts about investing there.”

Steiner said he sees about 75 percent men in his shops but he also does women and children’s haircuts.

He jokes that sometimes men are harder to give a haircut to than women.

“Some guys come into the shop, want a haircut, but don’t want it to look like they got a haircut when they leave the shop,” he said.

Steiner is master barber, which means he graduated barber college and did a one year apprenticeship. He trained under a barber in Hettinger after graduation.

“Barbering takes a certain amount of training. A certain amount of schooling,” he said.

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“I had a wife and three kids and I went to barber college,” he said of his decision to go to Fargo for 10 months. “It was something I thought about for a while before I took the leap.”

In 1989, Mary Cannon, owner of the Moler Barber College of Hairstyling in Fargo, taught Steiner the skills he would need to offer quality service to his patrons.

“Most of the barbers under the age of 60, I probably taught them,” she said.

She has been teaching the 10-month course for 27 years.

She still remembers most of them and has their graduating class photos hung proudly on the walls. She remembers that Steiner is “a die-hard fisherman.”

She laughed, remembering her mom giving Steiner a “few” fishing poles to be re-strung, which ended up being a lot more that Steiner did in his free time in Fargo.

“I don’t think he thought it would be that many,” she said with a laugh.

Cannon and Steiner both know that the art of barbering is a diminishing one.

“When I went to barber college in ’89, there were 400 barbers in North Dakota,” Steiner said. “Now there are fewer than 200.”

Cannon said one reason could be attributed to the apprenticeship law. With more barbers retiring, she said there are less opportunities for people interesting in barbering to have someone to train under after graduation.

Steiner isn’t sure why there are less, but takes a guess that it could come down to more women opening salons. Still, he has been keeping busy since opening his new shop in Hettinger.

“Hettinger has been really appreciative, which is nice to be appreciated,” he said. “They feel lucky to have a barber.”

Steiner keeps his Facebook pages updated so people can follow which location he is in for the week. They can be found by searching Main Street Cuts, Bowman and Main Street Cuts, Hettinger.

He said the names being the same makes it easy when answering the phone since he doesn’t have to remember which location he is at when he picks up the phone just saying “Main Street Cuts.”

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