Hanging up the shears after 66 years

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 2:37 PM CDT
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After nearly seven decades of giving haircuts, a Crivitz barber is hanging up his scissors and cape.

Known around town as Jerry the Barber, Jerry Kapalczynski says the shutdown tied to the coronavirus pandemic nudged him into retirement.

Spending 50 years in any line of work is a true milestone, and Kapalczynski blows that away.

"66 years, I started in 1954 when I got out of high school," says Kapalczynski.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Kapalczynski didn't have to look far to find his inspiration.

"He always dressed nice, he'd have a white shirt and a tie and he always smelled good, my dad was a barber, he barbered until he was 90," recalls Kapalczynski.

After working with his dad, going to barber school and passing all the exams, Kapalczynski opened his first shop in Milwaukee in 1961.

He says business was great until a cultural phenomenon took over.

"Until 1973, and that's when the Beatles came over and in 1973 barbering went to heck, it just went downhill, I used to cut flat tops from morning to night," says Kapalczynski.

In 1973, Kapalczynski closed up shop and moved his wife and six kids to Crivitz, where he vacationed every summer.

In the Northwoods, Jerry the Barber became an institution.

"An elderly clientele, they were mostly retired gents and as you can see, I only charged ten bucks for a haircut and I hadn't raised my price in 15 years," says Kapalczynski with a chuckle.

As 2020 arrived, Kapalczynski says he had no plans to retire.

But then the coronavirus emerged, and with his doors forced to close, he realized something.

"My wife is home alone too and I figured hey, it's time," says Kapalczynski.

Today at 604 Main Avenue, the lights are off and the "for sale" sign is now in the ground.

While he's at peace with his decision, Kapalczynski says it's hard to have such a long career end so abruptly without the opportunity to say a lot of thank yous.

"The hardest part is I know that I'm not going to see the majority of these guys and that I felt bad about not being able to thank them because I was without contact with them for a month. They helped us to raise a wonderful family, educate them and feed them and without them I couldn't have done this," says Kapalczynski with a grateful smile.

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