Mandan News

30 years of cutting hair

Mike Eldred is celebrating 30 years as a barber. His new shop is on "the Strip" in Mandan. (Dustin White photo).

Mike Eldred is celebrating 30 years as a barber. His new shop is on “the Strip” in Mandan. (Dustin White photo).

By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

It was 30 years ago that Mike Eldred decided that it was time for a new career. He no longer wanted to work for someone else, but was not fully sure what path he was going to follow. After sitting and talking with a friend, all that cleared up. Eldred was going to become a barber.

As with most barbers in the area, Eldred attended Moler Barber School in Fargo. Upon graduation, he learning was still not complete though. Instead, one of the most difficult sections of his voyage was just ahead: finding a master barber who wanted an apprentice.

“It was difficult to find a master barber, as most wanted to be a one man shop,” Eldred said. “The reason is that people then don’t have to wonder who is going to cut their hair next time.”

Finding an established barber who was willing to give a newcomer a chance was a challenge. The search would eventually take Eldred nearly 400 miles away from his home in Fargo.

Having traveled to Williston in order to begin his new career, Eldred made the first steps in what would be a three decade long journey.While his apprenticeship was only 15 months, he stayed working with the master barber, who gave him his initial chance, for six and a half years.

In 1991, Eldred decided to take a step out on his own, and opened his own barber shop. The location was wonderful, being right next door to Walmart. Throughout the years, he maintained steady customer base, even though there were 11 barber shops when he started.

As the years went on, many of the other barbers in Williston closed up shop. When the oil-boom hit the western part of the state, this caused a massive influx of new customers. The business was good.

“I try to keep my barber shop pretty clean, but there were times in which I was walking knee deep in hair,” Eldred joked.

There were some downsides though. Being in a small town had its disadvantages. Wanting to retire in a larger area, Eldred and his wife, Randa, decided to move to the Mandan area.

“Well, my wife and I have family in Minnesota and Montana, so this was a nice central location,” Eldred said.

Having lived on both sides of the state, it seemed fitting that Eldred would wind up in the middle. Finding a new location though was difficult. Eventually, he found the site for his current shop on “the Strip.” In the fall of 2013, he officially opened as a new barber in Mandan.

Finding a building proved to be the easier part of the relocation though. With other established barbers in town, finding a new customer base has been difficult.

“People stay with their barber,” Eldred said. “There is a loyalty there and barbers rely on that too.”

Eldred is okay with the slow process though, as he enjoys the work. That’s not to say that he isn’t hoping for new customers, but he is primarily looking at new residents. Residents who haven’t found a barber yet.

“I spend a lot of time waiting,” Eldred said.

For Eldred the most enjoyable portion of being a barber is being able to speak with people. Eldred says that barbers are generally vocal people, so the work fits him quite well.

“If we couldn’t talk, I would do it,” Eldred said.

Eldred also says that there is a security going to a barber, as there is a consistency there. Having the same barber each time allows a person to know that they will get the same haircut that they want.

Mike’s Barber shop is located at 3202 Memorial Highway, “the Strip,” in Mandan. To schedule an appointment, call 701-751-3082.