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East Lansing man has been a barber for 70 years and he's still cutting hair

Posted at 5:33 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 17:33:09-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Duane Stoolmaker has been a barber for a very long time, almost 71 years. He still cuts hair at Headliners International Hair Studio in Meridian Township.

“Growing up on a farm initially my father taught us how to work, which was very important,” said Stoolmaker. “Maybe he overdid it.”

Cutting hair for the better part of a century wasn’t what he had planned.

“I wanted to be a math teacher,” Stoolmaker said.

He planned to study at Michigan State University. But Stoolmaker skipped a grade, and, because of it, he had a gap year after school before he could join the military.

“That's why I went to barber school,” Stoolmaker said. “So didn't waste that year. I knew I could get an apprentice license in one year. Otherwise, it probably would have been a whole different path.”

Stoolmaker said, while he was enlisted for eight years, he didn’t want to commit to anything. And then he purchased his own barber shop.

“I had a shop called Spartan Barber Shop, of all things,” Stoolmaker said.

But Stoolmaker said shifting plans can be a good thing.

“You just adapt, adjust, and make the most out of it. It can be fun if you choose to have it be fun....I'm happier in the end,” he said. He joked, “I probably spared a lot of grief from the students that I would have had as a math teacher. So, that's all good.”

The secret to a 70-year career: “I just really enjoy it. I have fascinating customers from all walks of life,” Stoolmaker said.

Some of them have been coming for decades.

“I've had Duane cut my hair for about 50 years now,” said Bill Paulins, a mechanic at Crippen Buick GMC. “I follow him wherever he goes.”

Stoolmaker said he has still customers he first gave a haircut in 1956, but being a barber is not his only passion. He enjoys skiing, just recently joined a singing group and collects old cars.

He currently has three cars, one from 1928, one from 1930, and one from 1923. He named all three of them based on personal stories and people he connected with these years. The first one is named Annie after his parent’s anniversary, the second Freddie after his brother, and the third Granny after his grandmother.

Today, he visits schools to educate kids about the cars and their history. You might spot him in one of them around East Lansing on a warm spring or summer day.

Stoolmaker does not intend to stop cutting hair yet, but he might add another hobby to the list.

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Mikayla Temple

Mikayla Temple

1:39 PM, Jan 05, 2021

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Mikayla Temple

FOX 47 News Neighborhood Newsletter