Byron's Barber Shop ages to 120 years

2014-06-15T20:00:00Z 2014-06-16T18:24:12Z Byron's Barber Shop ages to 120 yearsLeann Burke Leann.Burke@nwi.com, (219)548-4357 nwitimes.com

CHESTERTON | Newspaper clippings and faded photographs tell the story of Byron's Barber Shop that has seen beards trimmed and hair clipped since 1894.  

Walking past the red, white and blue barber's pole and through the front door is like stepping into a time machine. Behind you, modern cars roll along Calumet Road. Before you, antique glass hair product bottles and hand clippers line the walls and countertop. 

"They don't make them like this anymore," said Byron McKinney, 70, the shop's current owner. "Now, everything's plastic." 

Brian Cheeseman sat in one of three antique barber chairs bolted to the floor while McKinney trimmed his hair with a buzzing electric razor. McKinney has been cutting Cheeseman's hair for nine years.

"It's a pretty neat place," Cheeseman said. 

After Cheeseman left and the hair was swept up, McKinney recited what he knows of the shop's story while digging in a cabinet for a manilla folder that holds bits of the shop's history.

McKinney bought the shop from Dick Anderson 20 years ago. Anderson has since died.

"When I took it over, I didn't know it was 100 years old," McKinney said. 

McKinney claimed that after half an hour in the shop, his wife decided he should have it. 

"It was the best move he ever made," Patricia McKinney said.

Forty-six years before McKinney bought the shop, Anderson bought it from a barber named Charlie Hagar. McKinney doesn't remember who had the shop before Hagar. 

The newspaper clippings, photographs, and public records fill in pieces of what no one remembers anymore. Records from Larry Clark at the Genealogy Department at the Porter County Library put Horace Mannering as the barber there from 1905 to 1921. Earlier records don't have addresses attached, according to Clark.

After Mannering, the space took a break from being a barber shop. A 1924 listing places blacksmith Leon Woycik in the shop and, in 1931, the property sat vacant. 

In the barber shop, McKinney has a copy of an 1894 photograph of two men standing in the doorway that reveals what has been passed from barber to barber as the shop's founding date. A handwritten caption reads, "Jacob Romini and Mr. Way."  

Now, Byron's Barber Shop is the oldest of the two remaining Porter County traditional barber shops, according to McKinney. But the dwindling number of barber shops does not change McKinney's mind. He prefers the traditional atmosphere to the faster salons people frequent today. He thinks everyone comes out of those with the same hair styles.

"You gotta be able to cut the hair the way the customer wants," McKinney said. "He's the one that's got to wear it."

At the end of the day, McKinney's favorite part of being a barber are the people who sit in his antique chairs. 

"Some of the people, you've cut them for 30-some years," McKinney said. "They get to be friends."

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