Barber John Lakota retires after 49 years
By Julie Rossman
When John Lakota began working as a barber in Union Grove, the cost of a haircut was about two dollars – $.25 extra for a flat top. It was 1963, and Lakota was just 25 years old when he took a job alongside Leo Thomas, owner of Leo’s Barber Shop on Main Street in Union Grove. Thomas retired in 1994, selling the shop to Lakota.
On Dec. 29, it was Lakota’s turn. The 74-year-old barber quietly retired after 49 years at the barbershop at 1108 Main Street.
Lakota grew up in Wind Lake where his father owned a barbershop. He was indentured through the Industrial Commission to his father at the Wind Lake barbershop to learn the barbering profession. He completed a three-year apprenticeship, followed by the Wisconsin State Boards and then a one-year journeymanship.
Besides the Wind Lake shop, Lakota also worked at a barbershop in West Allis before joining the National Guard in 1961. He was sent to Fort Louis, Wash. for the Berlin Crisis and upon his return, worked at a barbershop in Hales Corners for a year.
Don Gifford, a National Guard buddy, is the one who told Lakota that Leo Thomas was looking for a barber.
And the rest is history.
Lakota recalled that each time he started a new job, he’d try it for at least a year. “I had to give it a year, in my mind, to see if it would work,” Lakota said.
But obviously things worked out very well with Leo, though Lakota never imagined 49 years at the Main Street business. “I took it one day at a time,” Lakota said.
Lakota said he enjoyed his job and liked to exchange stories and jokes with Leo and with his customers –something he says he will miss.
Over the years, Lakota said his customers have been more than just customers, as he has developed relationships with them.
“I will miss that,” he said, adding: “I’m not moving … I’ll be around.”