Ad Spot

‘I’m going to miss it’

Albert Lea barber retires after 52 years at same location


“The barber has left the building.”

After 52 years behind the chair, Gary Thompson said those words upon finishing his last professional haircut at Southside Barber Shop on Friday.

Thompson has been at the shop in its same location, 220 E. Seventh St. in Albert Lea, his entire career, and has been the sole barber there for the last 50 years. The barber shop will close with his retirement, and he said a beauty parlor will take over the lease and plans to renovate the building.

Thompson first got into cutting hair due to his uncle, who was a barber as well. He influenced Thompson and mentored him, something Thompson has tried to do for others throughout his career.

“You’ve got to be a good listener,” he said.

Thompson’s father was his first client.

“He actually paid for it,” he said with a laugh. “But he’s been free ever since.”

Southside Barber Shop could have used a revolving door Friday as people continuously stopped in to wish Thompson, who will be 75 in September, well in retirement.

“I guess I’m not going to get my hair cut anymore,” one visitor said.

“It’s probably free then, isn’t it?” another chimed in.

The traditional barber shop conversational atmosphere was alive and well for Thompson’s last day, with a half a century’s-worth of jokes and stories flying.

“I hate to tell you this, but that’s the best you’re going to look for a long time,” Thompson said to one customer as he finished his haircut.

“I’m just teasing,” he continued, winking. “You don’t have to be a good barber, you just have to be a good talker.”

Bob Armon was Thompson’s last appointment. Thompson teased him about his longer hair — which hadn’t been cut since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic closing down salons and barbershops for months. Armon wasn’t about to let anyone else touch his hair but Thompson in the meantime.

“I need that once-a-month fill of harassment to keep me in order,” Armon said jokingly.

“It was worth the wait.”

Upon having his haircut finished, Armon tipped Thompson with 52 one-dollar bills — one for every year of his career.

“I wish I could have had many more years with you,” Armon said to him.

As his career came to a bittersweet close, Thompson hugged his wife, Ginny, and thanked her for sticking it out with him, especially in the tougher early years when he was starting the business.

“She’s been the best partner in the whole world,” Thompson later said of his wife.

Leaving the shop isn’t easy, he said. He has watched his clients grow up, cutting hair for four generations of customers in some cases. His own children, sons-in-law and grandchildren have been clients as well.

“I think it was just time for me,” he said on his decision to retire this year. “It’s the customers that have kept me here this long. Thank you for all the memories and good times we’ve had.”

Thompson hopes he has been able to show his children and grandchildren, as well as the rest of his customers, how important it is to enjoy what they do.

“Be proud of what you do,” he said. “It was a pleasure coming to work every day. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m going to miss it.”


About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

email author More by Colleen

Health Updates

Daily COVID-19 update: No new cases in 4 area counties; double-digit deaths statewide

Cops, Courts & Fires

DEA reports significant increase in counterfeit pills in Minnesota

Cops, Courts & Fires

2 cited after report of fight and other reports

Elections & Campaigns

Martinez the likely DFL candidate to face Bennett

Elections & Campaigns

Lee and Herman lead primary results for county District 5

Elections & Campaigns

Omar tested in Minnesota; Smith, Lewis win Senate primaries

Elections & Campaigns

Unofficial Freeborn County primary election results

Featured News

5 things to do this week

Elections & Campaigns

Hagedorn meets with business leaders, law enforcement officers in Albert Lea


Fishing duo takes second


Salt deliveries signal winter preparations have begun


Toastmasters Club elects new officers

Cops, Courts & Fires

Prosecution rejects rookie argument by ex-cop in Floyd death

Cops, Courts & Fires

ATF: Fire that destroyed St. Paul hotel project was arson

Cops, Courts & Fires

Convicted killer pleads guilty to Minnesota husband’s murder

Elections & Campaigns

Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate


City to spray for mosquitoes


County considering travel policy for employees


Big Ten pulls plug on fall football amid COVID-19 concerns


Sons of Norway meeting tomorrow

Health Updates

Daily COVID-19 update: No new cases reported in 3 area counties

Cops, Courts & Fires

Police body camera video of Floyd arrest released to public


States strain to carry out Trump order on unemployment aid

Cops, Courts & Fires

3 cited after fight and other reports