LANSING, Ill. (June 8, 2023) – After 60 years in the trade, Barber Kent McCarthy is retiring and putting his Lansing business — Kent’s Barber Shop — up for sale. Throughout the years, McCarthy has worked at barber shops in and around Lansing, but the shop at 3239 Ridge Road has been solely his business proprietorship for the last 32 years.
Barber Kent’s first exposure to barbering began at his family home in Hammond, Indiana.
“My dad cut my hair for years — grade school and high school. He asked me one time — I was probably a junior in high school — and he said, ‘C’mon downstairs. I want you to cut my hair.’”
McCarthy’s own father was not a licensed barber, but his high school friend’s father was. He and his friend visited the father’s barber shop in Hegewisch, and McCarthy told him, “I’m kind of interested.”
Having grown up in Hammond, McCarthy preferred to find a career that did not involve going to the mills and working swing shifts, so he was looking to learn a trade.
Barber school decision
Right after high school, in the early 1960’s, McCarthy told his parents, “I think I want to go to barber school.” He enrolled at Moler Barber College, then located at 725 S. State Street in Chicago. Moler Barber College, founded by A.B. Moler in Chicago in 1893, was the first barber college in the United States, eventually franchising to other locations.
McCarthy recalls that at Moler Barber College, he was required to put in 1,872 hours — many more than a beautician’s requirement at the time, which was 1000 hours. According to McCarthy, if you attended full time, six days a week, without any absences, you could finish in nine months. Back in those days, haircuts in the front room of the school cost $1.00, and haircuts in the back room were free. The advanced students worked in the front room. Clients in the back room were mostly individuals who were indigent and in need of a shave.
“I was very lucky to get out of school a little early,” McCarthy said.
He said one day he went upstairs to the boss’s desk, and told him he had heard that if a student were competent, he could ask to get out early and receive temporary employment at barber shops outside the school. Barbers would often call the school for students if they needed temporary workers to fill in at their shops.
But, according to McCarthy, the boss loudly and gruffly told him, “No! What are you talking about? Get downstairs!” But the next day, the boss secretly handed him a note telling him where to report for a temporary one-week job.
After one week outside of school, McCarthy returned, and the boss gave him two more secret temp jobs — one for two weeks, and a third for one week — which together just about finished McCarthy’s hours required for licensing. This was a positive experience for McCarthy since he was now able to afford his own car for $50 and he gained real exposure to the barber shop world.
History with Lansing
After barbering in East Chicago, McCarthy began working in Lansing in 1966 at a four-chair barbershop on Ridge Road called Lou’s Barbershop. After two years at Lou’s, he was considering working with a former barber college classmate who owned a shop in Indiana, but before he could make a decision to work in Indiana, one of his co-worker at Lou’s — Paul Burris — asked him to take a car ride with him.
Burris drove him to an available location at 3236 Ridge Road and asked him if he would like to go into a barber shop partnership with him there. At the time, McCarthy told Burris, “I have no money, and I have two babies,” But, as he now explains years later, “I found the money, and the babies didn’t care.”
McCarthy and Burris partnered for 24 years until Burris’s passing at age 50. McCarthy stayed at their location for another year. Mr. Dick Schroeder — of Schroeder-Lauer Funeral Home — had been a regular client of McCarthy’s, and many years prior McCarthy had told him that if Porter’s Cleaners ever vacated the property across the street, which was owned by Schroeder-Lauer, he would love to lease it as a barber shop. Years later, Schroeder’s partner Joe Lauer asked McCarthy if he was still interested in renting the property, and McCarthy was thrilled. In 1991 he moved his business — Kent’s Barber Shop — to 3239 Ridge Road, where it’s been ever since.
Today, McCarthy is a couple of months’ shy of turning 80, and retiring even after his own two sons have retired. Reflecting on his career over the years, McCarthy acknowledges and concludes, “Lansing has been very, very good to me since 1966 … very good to me.”
Quiet closing, yet ready for reopening
McCarthy officially closed Kent’s Barber Shop two months ago, but the shop remains exactly as he left it, meticulously clean with barber tools of the trade as neatly arranged as surgical instruments. Throughout the shop, various collectibles — nostalgia of decades past — are thoughtfully displayed on walls and shelves. The barber pole — a sign of the trade — is displayed prominently in the window. Though this quintessential barber shop is closed for now, it is move-in ready for a new business owner/tenant. Interested parties may reach Barber Kent at 219-796-4774.
- Lansing Journal sightings (at Kent’s Barber Shop)