After 68 years, Tom’s Barber Shop prepares to say goodbye
Tom’s Barber Shop opened in Minot in 1956. Owner and barber, Tom Plemel, started his career as a barber in 1950 after deciding to get away from the farm life.
Growing up on a farm near Starkweather, Plemel was often sick due too asthma. This led him quickly to decide the farm life wasn’t for him, so he chose to become a barber to get away from it all. He started off working in Cando to get the experience he needed before heading to the University of North Dakota to work at a barber shop there from 1953 to ’56. His final destination was Minot where he has worked to serve the community ever since.
He purchased the shop he originally started working at in town in 1960 and hasn’t looked back. Once he moved to Minot, he met and married his late wife, Anna Mae, and together they raised five children in the community. Family is a big part of his life, especially after his wife passed.
Working as a barber, there are a variety of things that they can enjoy about their jobs. When asked what he has really enjoyed over the years, Plemel said, “I don’t know, mostly being self-employed and seeing different people everyday.”
He’s had quite a career with some memorable instances throughout it, meeting a variety of people who came in for an old-fashioned hair cut or shave. At one time when the railroad behind the Central Avenue shop was busy, he would have a steady stream of customers from the workers.
In 2018, business has slowed as many go to salons and many barber shops have closed, and Plemel sees it as his time too.
“I just don’t have anymore stamina to keep working,” he said, talking about his recently turning 87. “Too old!”
The shop started off with four chairs that he worked before selling one and running three for 30 years. Then around ten years ago, after he no longer had employees, he began working one chair alone while still having the three set up in the unique little shop that still holds the style and feel of when he bought it 58 years ago. He is proud to have worked so long and to have been a barber, offering his skills to the Minot area.
Plemel will be finishing out May before he will say goodbye to Tom’s Barber Shop and to the barber lifestyle.