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Barber shops used to be as plentiful as service stations but those days are long gone. The service stations, like shoe repair shops and produce houses, have been gone for years. There is, however, one holdout in the barber shop department – Dick Simpson.
Dick’s Barber Shop has been located at 105 W. Monroe since the first week of May 1964. Dick and his wife Theanna (Black) bought the building in 1963 and Theanna moved her beauty shop from the Mount Ayr Hotel to the east half of their new property that year. Dick occupies the west half.
The building was constructed for Mr. and Mrs. Earl Perry in 1927 for their dry cleaning business and dress shop. Dudley Watts was one of the last operators of the dry cleaning business.
So, how did Dick get started in the business? “Theanna said she wasn’t going to marry a truck driver,” Dick adamantly explains. Dick had been a truck driver since he graduated high school in Macksburg, Iowa in 1961. Theanna suggested Dick go to barber school and work much closer to home. Much closer. Like next door closer. Dick and Theanna were married October 14, 1962.
Dick attended a barber college in Des Moines and began to serve his apprenticeship in Clarinda, but a change in ownership of the shop shifted Dick to share a shop with Paul Jackson in Ellston. After that commitment Dick and Theanna worked side-by-side for decades.
Among Dick’s more well-known clients was Grand Ole Opry star Billy Grammer. Mr. Grammer and a couple of his bandmates came to Ringgold County yearly for pheasant season. Billy Grammer released “Gotta Travel On” in 1959 and had tremendous success with that song. He later recorded “I Wanna Go Home,” also known as “Detroit City,” and again enjoyed great success. Before passing, Grammer was honored for being a 50-year member of the Grand Ole Opry. Dick said Billy and the boys picked a couple of songs in the shop on at least one occasion. Also, Ron Lamb, CEO of Casey’s General Store, was a frequent visitor to Dick’s Barber Shop.
Another honor to Dick’s credit is his participation in “Our Iowa” magazines’ Best Barber in Iowa Contest in 2008. The event was hosted by WHO radio personalities Van Harden and Bonnie Lucas and Dick finished the contest in the Top Ten. A plaque he received is on display in the barber shop to go along with the memories.
The COVID-19 pandemic closed the shop for about three months in 2020. Dick reopened as soon as he could and followed the mandates in place. He feels all is back to normal now.
There is not much call for flat top and mohawk hair cuts any longer but they are still offered. Change comes to every business and barbering is no different. Dick says he has no plans to retire so Mount Ayr may have its last barber shop a while longer. The first week of May 2023 will mark fifty-nine years of Dick’s Barber Shop. And, who knows, mohawks may make a comeback.
Dick and Theanna have two daughters, Vonda and Carmen, who are also impressed with their father’s feat of longevity. Congratulations, Dick’s Barber Shop, where the customer always gets clipped.