Recent mural creation can be seen at Stein’s Barber Shop
By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN It is no small feat that Karl Harlow Jr. was able to recently paint a mural on the wall of Fran Stein’s Barber Shop in downtown Delano.
Just this winter, Harlow, 53, was laying in a hospital bed at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and was given a 5 percent chance to live. He spent four months in an induced coma, and went from 240 pounds down to 180 pounds due to reoccurring pancreatitis. Doctors told him it was taking a large amount of vitamins and supplements that put him in the hospital.
“I’ve had a complete change of life,” Harlow said. “All I did was work . . . 20 hours a day . . . just go, go, go. Now, obviously, I take time to rest.”
Not only rest, but enjoy life. He said he now notices little things like tunes on the radio, and has a renewed spiritual life.
“I had a 5 percent chance to make it,” Harlow said. “For about three weeks, they didn’t know if I was going to.”
But make it he did, and now Harlow is enjoying a renewed sense of life and the opportunity to do what he loves create works of art.
Stein, who has been barbering for 43 years in Delano, has known Harlow since he was a youth, and said he used to cut Harlow’s father’s hair. About five years ago, the junior Harlow began going to Stein’s shop for haircuts, and the two reconnected.
Stein said last year, Harlow did some remodeling work in his basement and, at that time, Harlow threw out the idea of doing a mural in Stein’s new location of his former shop along the Crow River in Delano, where Stein and his father operated a barber shop for many years.
All it took for Harlow was a photograph, and he was able to turn a blank wall in Stein’s new shop into a work of art.
The old building dated back to the late 1800s, and was added on to in 1917, Stein said. It was tore down about three years back, but now remains, in a new sense, on the wall at Stein’s Bridge Avenue location.
“I think it looks great,” Stein said, noting the specific detail of the shrubbery and barber poles. “I think he did an unbelievable job. One a scale of one to 10, it’s a 20. He’s the only guy I’d want to do it. Karl is an absolute perfectionist.”
Harlow now lives in Monticello, and came to Delano as a youth back in the late 1960s. His family originally hails from Rochester. Harlow said his father wanted a hobby farm, and found one near Delano.
Harlow has two sons, Gary and Ryan, both who work and live in the area. He is also a patented tool inventor, having created the Radius 360, which is a unique circular drywall sanding tool. He’s also done some small hand tool repair.
From when he was in a coma, Harlow said he has vivid recollections of dreams he had, and is in the process of writing a book that details the different scenarios.
“I’ve got about 20 hours of writing in right now, and five dreams down,” Harlow said. “Everything was so vivid the colors, the smells, everything it’s like I was there.”
Up until being forced to slow down, Harlow said work has been his life over the past many years, but said his brush with death has caused him to slow down and has put things into a different perspective for him.
He has done drywall/painting work, factory jobs, and has driven truck. He’s also done cake decorating, and feels he has a “knack for doing artistic stuff.”
“Doing specialty things no one else can do,” Harlow explained.
“For me, it’s real simple to just take a picture and do something,” Harlow admitted modestly.
“Everybody makes a comment about this thing,” Stein said. “Especially people who were in the old barber shop on the river.”
Harlow’s father, Ken Sr., was also into Sheetrock and drywall, and the junior Harlow worked with his father and attended Delano Schools.
To create something like what he did at Stein’s Barber Shop, Harlow said he first draws lines on the wall, using a level to ensure accuracy, and goes from there.
“It’s layered,” Harlow said. “You have to sit and think about it and how it’s going to come together.”
The art he does is called “3D relief,” which means the actual piece stands off the wall.
“It looks 3D because of the way it is raised off the wall,” Harlow said.
Harlow also has artistic creations in the works for the funeral home in Buffalo, a piece for Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and some pieces for the newly-opened Pete’s Pizza location in Delano.
At Pete’s Pizza, customers who stop by will soon be able to see a few large pizzas on the wall, along with lasagna plates, a breadstick plate, and spaghetti and meatball plates.
“It’s more interesting and fun than anything,” Harlow said. “It doesn’t seem like work.”