As quick-cut services, such as Great Clips and Supercuts, pop up across the country, some see the traditional barbershop as a thing of the past. On the contrary, Wildcat Barber Shop has a long-standing tradition that keeps customers coming back.
Gary Wood, owner of the shop, is experienced in his field. His first shop in Manhattan was located on the east side of Ballard Sporting Goods in Aggieville before Ballard bought the building. This store was in business for 26 years before moving to the current location at 1100 Laramie St. From 1984 to 1997, Wood also owned a beauty shop down the street from his barbershop.
“The barbershop would close at 6 p.m., and then I would go to the beauty shop until it closed at 9 p.m. to help the girls out.”
One other barber works at Wildcat Barber with Wood. Randy Sievers has worked at the shop for about two years.
Sievers said he came to Manhattan because he has family in the area. With 32 years of hair cutting experience, Sievers began working at Wildcat Barber because he “wanted to be a part of the Aggieville buzz.”
Though Wood and Sievers see their fair share of college students at the shop, Wood said most of his customers are, “mainly townspeople.” Because the shop has roots in Manhattan, it relies mostly on word of mouth and long-time returning customers.
One customer, Andrew Von Lintel, said he started coming to Wildcat Barber when his former barber, Andy, moved there from another shop. He said one day he came in, and Andy had become Randy. But, despite the staff change, he continued getting his hair cut at the barbershop.
Another part of the Wildcat Barber Shop tradition is the K-State sports memorabilia covering the walls. Most pieces were given to Wood as gifts, but he has been collecting them for years.
One piece, a news article from Phoenix, is framed and hanging on the wall of the shop and quotes Wood from 2004. That was the year K-State played Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The reporter from this particular newspaper happened to be traveling through Manhattan before he knew he would be covering the game and decided to stop and get the opinions of the locals. When the article was published in Phoenix, one of Wood’s customers stumbled across it and brought it back for Wood to read. Wood laughed when recalling how he was quoted, “Well, it’s not exactly what I said, but I guess it was close.”
Wood said what sets the shop apart from other places that offer similar services is that barbers do not try to get customers in and out quickly.
“We take our time to do a good job,” he said.
At Wildcat Barber, customers see the same barber every time they come in — something Wood said makes them feel at home. Wood said his favorite part of the business is visiting with people and cutting hair.
“We get to meet a lot of nice people and interesting people,” he said.
The customers are not the only people in the shop with interesting stories.
Sievers entertains his customers with stories about his travels across the country, but when prodded for juicy stories, Sievers insisted that “what happens in the barbershop stays in the barbershop.”