May 14, 2007
Short-haired dogs and clients
LP barber Jim Moller finds time for both
By Ivan Raconteur
Jim Moller is a man who likes short hair on his clients and on his dogs.
He doesn’t advertise his barber business anymore, but since he has been cutting hair in Lester Prairie for 30 years, he doesn’t need to. People who require his services know where to find him, and he still works “pretty much full time.”
Moller and his wife, Jan, moved to Lester Prairie in 1977.
Prior to that, they had been living in Lakefield, Minn., near the Iowa border.
Moller said they chose Lester Prairie because they had two handicapped children, and McLeod County had one of the best reputations in the state for programs for their kids, outside of the big metro area schools.
Moller grew up in Eagle Bend, about 120 miles north of Lester Prairie. Jan is a native of Hutchinson.
After serving three years in the Navy, Moller returned to Minnesota and spent six years working at the 3M factory in Hutchinson.
He found he didn’t enjoy factory work, and enrolled in barber school in 1965.
When he moved to Lester Prairie, Moller started business in the space now occupied by Charlotte’s Beauty Shop.
His friend, Kenny Paul, suggested that Moller should keep everything in one location, and Moller combined his barber shop with Jan’s beauty salon under the name “Moller’s Barber and Beauty Shop” in its current location in his home at 210 Central Avenue.
Moller said it turned out to be a good decision. The money he saved on rent paid for his house.
“This isn’t a business that you will get rich in,” Moller commented.
Many of Moller’s customers have been coming to him for decades.
Some even continued to make the trip even after moving out of the area.
One client moved from New Germany to Park Rapids, and continued to return to Lester Prairie to get his hair cut for years.
“He never missed an appointment until last spring,” Moller said.
Dealing with the same customers year after year eliminates the need for them to tell Moller what they want done with their hair.
“They just say ‘same as always,’ and then we can get into talking about hunting, fishing, and women,” Moller laughed.
One thing that has changed during Moller’s career is the addition of appointments, which he said started in the early 1970s.
“Barber shops never had appointments before that. Now, we don’t have a cluster of guys hanging around waiting for haircuts anymore,” Moller said.
Today, he accepts both appointments and walk-in customers.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the cash register.
“It belonged to Swede Lindstrom, the old barber in New Germany. The highest amount it will ring up is $1.99,” Moller explained.
He bought it 30 years ago, and keeps it around to keep part of the barbershop tradition alive.
His waiting room chairs are another part of his history. He brought them from the barber shop in Lakefield that he owned before moving to Lester Prairie.
Moller said one of his role models in the business is Winsted barber Sylvester (Sy) Seymour.
“He has always been a friendly competitor. I have known him since I came to Lester Prairie. I have always respected him as a gentleman. He is just another friend in the business,” Moller commented.
Styles have changed a lot since Moller got into the barber business.
“I survived from basic clipper cuts to styling, and back to clipper cuts,” Moller said.
Sometimes, Moller has had to use a creative approach to get by.
When he owned the shop in Lakefield, there were two barbers in a town of 1,800 people. Moller and the other barber were good friends.
“We survived the long hair era by promoting the hairpiece business. We sold 180 hairpieces in 18 months. We sold an average of 10 per month at an average price of $100 per hairpiece, compared to $2 haircuts,” Moller said.
He added that he and the other barber represented the biggest account in a town with a population under 5,000 in the five-state area for their supplier, Crown Toupee.
Hairpieces were such a big part of his business during those years, he had business cards printed showing a man with and without a hairpiece.
Owing a business can be demanding. Moller said earlier in his career he only took 20 vacation days during a 20-year period.
“It doesn’t take much to talk me into taking a day off now,” Moller smiled. “I tell people I have to use my vacation day or lose it.”
The barber business is changing.
“When barbers my age quit, there is no one coming out here doing flat tops anymore,” Moller said.
He added that people still look at barber shops as a place where they can get insight into the community.
He has had people who would stop in for half an hour every morning to have coffee and find out what is going on in town.
“We have had customers spend five hours loafing in the barber shop,” Moller commented.
“People ask me when I am going to retire. I don’t have any intention of doing that. I am going to let the business die by attrition,” Moller said.
The barber and his dogs
Apart from his business, one of his chief occupations has been working with his dogs.
“I have had dogs longer than I have been cutting hair,” Moller said.
His breed of choice is the Vizsla, a Hungarian pointer.
Vizslas were brought to the US from Europe after World War II, and are used for both showing and hunting.
Vizslas were very rare when Moller started breeding the dogs, but today, they are among the top 10 sporting breeds.
“I wanted a very short-haired, clean pointer. I had longer-haired breeds in the past, but a Vizsla is a drip-dry dog,” Moller said.
He still hunts, but said these days, it is mostly upland pheasants.
“The grouse woods are too tough for an old man,” Moller said.
He will turn 70 this year, and his dog Trisha is the same age (10 “human” years), but “she is in better shape,” Moller joked.
“She is not just another pretty face. She is part of an elite group, having earned both a bench championship and a Master Hunter designation,” Moller explained.
He has bred many AKC champions over the years.
He has kept dogs from the same bloodline since he got his second Vizsla in 1970.
The walls in his barber shop are covered with some of the many awards his dogs have won.
Field trials require a great deal of discipline.
“The dog must be able to come up on another dog that is on point, and honor that point. It is very competitive. It is more about how trainable they are than how good they are,” Moller said.
The dogs have been a big part of his life.
“I have had close to a dozen pointers over the years. I have always had at least one, and sometimes I have had three or four at a time,” Moller said.
Photos of some of his dogs have been featured on calendars produced by the Twin Cities Vizsla Club.
Whether he is spending time with clients in his shop, or with his dogs out in the field, one gets the impression that Moller spends his days among old friends.