He's hanging up his clippers
Vern Stevens is retiring after 46 years at the Y Barber Shop
If you haven't stopped by the Y Barber Shop to get your $7 haircut from Vern Stevens, then you better head in today, gentlemen.
Thursday marks the final day the Metzger resident will wield his trusty scissors, razors and clippers in the barber shop he has owned and operated for 46 years at 6500 S.W. Old Scholls Ferry Road on the eastern border of Beaverton.
Vern's retirement marks the end of an era of an old-school barber shop, where male customers of all ages could count on a warm welcome every day from the easy-going man who arrives at work before the sun even thinks about making an appearance.
For more than four decades, Vern has flipped on the light in the modest shop at 4:30 a.m. The warm glow has served as a beacon to motorists traveling along Scholls Ferry Road and as the sign to his loyal clientele that Vern is at his station and ready to get to work.
Rob Lemke, who lives just up the hill in the Old Scholls neighborhood, has considered it a challenge to meet Vern at the door when he arrives.
Lemke has gone to Vern for the past eight years, sometimes bringing his son along for a turn in the shop's lone barber's chair.
"This has been a good spot for me to come," Lemke said. "It's been nice and convenient. Vern has a pretty loyal clientele here. You see a lot of the same faces. I'm hoping he can't escape this place."
Vern's been pretty tight-lipped about his retirement, even squashing his wife Katherine's plans to throw a surprise party for him at his favorite watering hole, Toby's Sports Pub in Metzger.
"Vern has never liked to be the center of attention," his wife of 47 years said. "He likes to be in the background. He made me promise not to do anything special for him."
On Friday morning, as a steady stream of customers filed into the shop to take their turns in Vern's chair, they were surprised to learn their barber was really hanging up his clippers.
Paul Gorman of Raleigh Hills has gone to Vern for 25 years.
"I like that he's open so early," he said. "It makes it easy because I can come in, watch football and not worry about much of a wait."
Doug Luedloff of Aloha, who has been a customer for 35 years, added, "You can't get a $7 haircut in this town at least not the way Vern does it. I started coming here when I was in high school. It's the only place I've ever gone."
After a little good-natured ribbing about maybe getting a new TV when the new property owner takes over, Luedloff shook Vern's hand.
"I'm sorry to see you go, but I'm happy you're retiring," he said.
During a break in clients, Vern picked up his broom and talked about his time in the shop.
"There's a lot I'll miss, the customers, getting up early in the morning, really a little bit of everything, I guess," he admitted.
Looking back, he doesn't remember what led to him entering the profession after graduating from McMinnville High School.
He learned the tricks of the trade at Salem Barber College and went on to serve a 15-month apprenticeship with a barber in the Progress area, where the Embassy Suites is now located.
The two barbers planned to open the shop at the Old Scholls Ferry Road location, when a real estate office ran into zoning issues. A couple months in, Vern's partner backed out, and the Y Barber Shop legacy began.
"I like the area, I like the people, and I like the neighborhood, so I just stayed with it," he said.
While men's hairstyle fads have come and gone and returned again, Vern said he's never really minded any style even the mullet.
It's cutting women's hair that he chooses to avoid.
"At one time, I did cut women's hair, but you have to shampoo it and stuff," Vern admitted. "I just don't like all the fuss."
Other than a family trip to the College World Series in Omaha next summer, Vern said he doesn't really have a plan for what he will do with all his spare time now that he won't be reporting to work every day.
"I'm looking forward to it as long as I can keep busy," he said. "You'll have to ask my wife about what the plan is."
Katherine laughed when she heard that statement. "Vern has always done what he wants. His first day off, he says he's going to work in our neighbor's yard."
"I am going to try to be a social director for a little while," she added. "I know he will need to be busy he gets real antsy. I think retirement will be a real shock for him. He really likes his customers, and I don't think he really knows that his customers like him as much as they do."
Katherine, who retired nearly two years ago as a library manager after serving 25 years at Portland Community College, believes Vern is ready for the next chapter in their lives.
"I'm looking forward to having time just to play together," she said. "Vern has always worked hard and all the time. I am excited to have him home."
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