A chapter in Fort Frances history went into the books Saturday when Joe Danku of Joe’s Barber Shop closed up shop—ending a 38-year career.
Although Danku is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Norma, and grandchildren, as well as fishing trips and gardening, he’s also looking back with fondness and humble pride on the job that saw four generations of customers come through his door.
Danku, a native of Hungary, came to Canada in 1959 and began his career here in 1962 when he answered an ad for a six-month position as a barber for Amil Fournier, owner of the Rainy Lake Barber Shop, located on Mowat Avenue next to the Fort Frances Hotel.
Within a year, Danku had purchased Fournier’s shop, where he remained until a fire in the adjacent hotel burned him out in 1971.
After that, a 16-year stint in a shop on the corner of Mowat Avenue and Church Street eventually led to his most recent location on Scott Street.
It was a successful career that thrived because of trust, dependability, and most of all, change.
“At one time, there were 13 barbers in this town—three on Mowat Avenue [alone],” Danku said yesterday, noting competition wasn’t an issue because of the frequency between haircuts.
“But when long hair came along, it changed business big time, and lots of shops closed down because they refused change with the times,” he stressed.
“I changed with the times and took a hairdressing course,” he said, noting Lawrence Gushulak (now the only barber left here) and former barber Les Anderson did the same.
“When he came to town [from Winnipeg], he said that if he stayed for six months, he’d be a lucky man—and he’s still here,” said Norma Danku.
“He was [successful] because he was always there and he treated his customers well,” she added.
Dino D’Agostini can attest to that. Danku’s retirement ended a longstanding tradition of where he got his hair cut and the void won’t easily be filled.
“Oh, God, let’s see . . . I’ve been going there for 35 years and well, I kind of miss Joe [already],” D’Agostini said yesterday.
“It’ll be kinda tough. We could always ‘B.S.’ back and forth all the time,” he added. “Everybody that went there got along very well with him.”
He also noted gossip never hung in the air around Joe’s Barber Shop, something the retiree agreed with.
“I am not a gossiper—who cares about all that [talk]?” Danku argued. “You don’t need to create more headaches than you already have.”
Retirement also was bittersweet for Danku. Leaving behind a trade increasingly antiquated in today’s changing society isn’t a happy thought.
“Yes, I am sad. Barber shops are one of the oldest trades and they are pretty well dying off,” he lamented. “They are probably something we will never see again.”