Pioneer Barber Shoppe finds new home in Alberta museum

·3 min read
Dee Green, owner of Pioneer Barber Shoppe, cuts a client's hair at the store's new location in High River's Call of the West Museum.  (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Dee Green, owner of Pioneer Barber Shoppe, cuts a client's hair at the store's new location in High River's Call of the West Museum. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

The Pioneer Barber Shoppe has been operating in High River, Alta., for more than 70 years, so maybe it's earned the right to be part of a museum.

The business recently relocated to the High River rodeo grounds and set up shop right inside the Call of the West Museum.

The barber shop has had a few homes in High River over the years. It was last located on Centre Street after difficulties stemming from the 2013 floods and subsequent downtown redesign pushed the business out of its previous location.

"I had to move to a place with better parking. So I moved onto Centre Street, and I'd been there for five years, and then, of course, COVID hit last year," owner Dee Green told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

"Then between COVID and road construction out front, I didn't make any money for about six months. But, if I'm known for anything, it's being stubborn, and I didn't want to let that define the shop. My customers are so dear to me that I had to find a way."

When Green saw the local newspaper advertising a small rental space in the museum on the High River rodeo grounds, it felt like it was meant to be.

"It was like I heard the Angels sing," she said. "I thought, 'this is the answer for me.'"

Tuesday was Green's first day in the space.

"It's just beautiful. It looks like it always should have been there," she said.

Green said she still has some of the "old school" equipment she's kept from the barber shop's days gone by.

The shop has been in Green's family since 1980, and she took over ownership from her stepfather.

Dee Green keeps memorabilia from the old-time barber shop's seven decades in business in a display case at the front of the store.
Dee Green keeps memorabilia from the old-time barber shop's seven decades in business in a display case at the front of the store. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"When I bought it from him, these two old barber chairs were there, and the one I'm using is from 1956. It's one of the few things that survived the flood," she said.

"I did have to get it redone, but it's the one thing I've been hanging on to. It's the one thing that's left over from before, and now I guess I know why that fits in there perfectly."

Green said she's also placed a few pieces of family history on display, including the shoeshine box of her late grandfather, and the straight razor used by her great grandmother.

The West Museum is operated by the West Museum society. It's run by a group of retired men who have a common love for southern Alberta history, said Green. Her first customer in the new location was one of those men, Ken, who had helped her during her move-in.

"My favourite person in my whole life was my grandfather, my whole life, and I just love hanging out with older men. They're just the salt of the earth," she said.

"They come from a time where a man was worth his word, and a handshake was all it took, and I just love being surrounded by that kind of energy and have great respect for them."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.