After 65 years and half million haircuts, Edinburg barber retires
EDINBURG, N.D.—In his 65 years of being a barber, LeRoy Pederson believes he has done more than half a million haircuts.
Patrons come to the tiny Walsh County town of Edinburg from across the Red River Valley just to sit in the antique chairs—one is more than 100 years old—for a shave, quick trim or stylized do. And on Saturday, he gave three of a five-generation clientele the honor of being his last customers as family and friends looked on.
"I've never had this many people watch me while I work," he said to the laughter of his fan base.
Pederson, a Grand Forks 83-year-old who has owned Pederson's Barber Shop in Edinburg since 1954, donned his barber's smock for the last time.
He doesn't know how many customers he has had over the years, but he said he has at least one customer from every town in Walsh County, plus more who drive miles just for him.
His popularity has even reached international customers, including Per Worm of Denmark. The Dane stayed with Pederson and his wife, Louise, in 1987 as a foreign exchange student, but he comes back every now and then to request the services of his old friend, saying he owes his success to the Pedersons.
"The things that happened down the road after I went to school here would have never happened if it wasn't for those two," he said. "They are just some genuine, loving people that you really can trust. I just owe the world to those two."
Pederson grew up in Mcville, N.D., and initially started as a construction worker, he said. He joked that he wanted to be in a career where he could stay warm instead of standing outside in the cold.
He started cutting hair in 1952, first in Devils Lake and then in Grand Forks. Two years later, he took over a barber shop in Edinburg, a city of 200 residents who live about 70 miles northwest of Grand Forks.
"I wondered what was wrong with him that he stayed here for 27 years," Pederson said of the previous town barber. "Now I've been here for 63."
There have been small changes to the business. When he started cutting hair, he charged $1. His haircuts were $13 when he retired Saturday. Walsh County also had 18 barbers when he came to Edinburg. He was one of three in the county as of Saturday, he said.
What hasn't changed is his way of doing business. He handles the clippers and scissors like a pro, with pictures and antiques from the past filling the tiny space. He gave a free haircut to children when they came in for their first, and after that the children always get a lollipop.
Leith Hall, a 2-year-old from Edinburg who was Pederson's last client, knew exactly where to find the candy, adding that is his favorite part of the visit.
Pederson also has a button in the shop for customers to push in case he is out. That sends a message to his pager so he knows his services are needed.
Leith's grandfather, Greg, also got a haircut from the barber on Saturday with his son. Pederson served Hall's grandfather and father.
When asked why he keeps coming back, the Edinburg man said "because he does a great job."
"He likes to visit and banter with you, and he is the historian of the town," Greg Hall said, adding he knows everything that happens in the city.
The shop has been sold and there won't be a barber anymore. There have been long days—he said a 60- to 70-hour week is normal.
"One night I worked until 3 a.m. in the morning," he said.
Pederson said it's time to retire after a 65-year career, but he'll miss his clients and shop talk.
"I've always enjoyed people," he said. "I enjoyed going to work every day."