Long-time local barber hanging up his clippers

Before Joe Hoppe of Alpena hangs up his clippers for the last time Saturday at the conclusion of a 45-year career as a local barber, he has one last customer to service his grandson, Adam.

“I picked my grandson as my last customer of the day,” said the retiring Hoppe, owner of Arcade Barber in the Haborside Mall. “A good friend of mine wanted to be last, but I told him he’s got to be second to the last.”

Considered a bit of an institution in the city, the 67-year-old Hoppe started work in September 1968 for Don Wright, the former owner of the business. He had received his formal training at LaMar Barber College in Detroit, where he remained for three years to work and serve in the National Guard.

“Then I decided to move back to Alpena. I figured why not,” he said. “I was tired of the city. I came back to work for Don.”

His decision proved fortuitous because not only did he ultimately make Arcade Barber his life’s work, but he also met and married his future wife, Marsha, while on the job there. It just so happened that she worked at the Red Carpet beauty salon situated next door.

As she recalls it, they had a little matchmaking assistance. She remembers her boss used to send her into the barber shop about once a week to buy pop from a vending machine, and his boss would then later send him into the beauty salon to get the empty pop bottles back.

The two started dating about six months after he first went to work for Wright, and were married in September 1971. They now have two daughters, one granddaughter and one grandson.

In the 45-year time span, Hoppe acquired an extremely loyal base of customers who have always appreciated the warmth and genuineness he supplied along with his haircuts and trims.

“We’re going to miss him,” said his good friend and long-time customer Mike Barnett. “Nobody else has cut my hair in 45 years except for a few times when Joe was out of town. The atmosphere at his shop was always friendly and very welcoming.”

According to Barnett, Hoppe’s shop always was a place to settle in and hear talk of local politics.

“It’s where you would get a lot of information on the board of education and local politics,” Barnett said. “It’s where rumors were dispelled, not started.”

Another steadfast customer, Mark Hunter, appreciated Hoppe for the personal interest he always showed in his customers, and for his devotion to his work and his family.

“He was interested in knowing what his customers were interested in. He enjoyed the people he worked for,” said Hunter, who has gone exclusively to Hoppe since about 1980, except for the years he was in college or working out of state.

“Joe took on no responsibility other than his work and family, and was unimpressed by the fame of others,” Hunter said, adding that talk at the shop often fell to politics, local news, religion and family.

Both Barnett and Hunter said Hoppe’s shop was different from many others in that he took appointments.

“There was never a crowd or group of men waiting and talking among themselves,” Hunter said. “Conversations were with your barber, usually with no one else except the customer in the other barber seat.”

The tools of Hoppe’s trade have been pretty basic all these years a couple pairs of clippers, some shears and combs, plus a hair dryer. While in the earlier years he also offered shaves, that practice has since become a thing of the past.

Over the course of time, Hoppe said he’s worked with only seven other barbers, and most of those were short-timers.

“It seemed if they weren’t from the area, then they didn’t stay,” he said.

Not so for Jim Rasche, who has worked with Hoppe at the shop for the past 35 years. With the closing of the business, Rasche is moving to Roy’s Barbershop on Chisholm. He will maintain the same phone number as at Arcade Barber and continue to take appointments.

Upon his retirement, Hoppe plans to spend more time at the hunting camp and do projects there, plant his garden and go fishing with his buddies.

At the close of business at approximately noon on Saturday, Hoppe expects to miss the personal interaction with his customers and how he shared their ups and downs in life.

“I just want to thank everyone for all of those years of patronage,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good customers, and I got to know people personally because that’s sort of part of the job. I’m going to miss that part of it.”