By Debra Jenson-De Hart - March 25th 2024



The old cliché: “When one door closes . . .” couldn’t be truer than for Rod Gottfredsen, owner of Austin’s Barber Shop.

The vintage shop, dating back to 1917, has been owned by various barbers and has relocated a few times in downtown Beloit over the years. The most recent site, however, has been at 316 State Street for 27 years.

But that is about to change.

“We are moving on April 1,” Gottfredsen said, who has been a barber for 52 years and who has owned the business since 1983.

While he owns the business, he has leased the property all these years.

When asked why he is moving, his reply was: “Losing this location was a bit of a miscommunication with the landlord,” he said.

At first, learning he would need to move was upsetting, he said.

“I prayed a lot,” he said.

Then a patron mentioned he might try contacting the Bryden family about a building on Broad Street they own. The building is located at 603 Broad St. where the former Firestone Tire shop was.

The site was available and Gottfredsen worked things out with the owners, he said.

About relocating now he says: “I think it might be the best thing that ever happened.”

The shop will be moving out on April 1 when Christofferson Moving & Storage will handle the heavy equipment and Country Glass Inc. will take care of the mirrors.

The shop will be closed on April 1 and 2 as the interior set-up occurs.

“The new shop will be completely wheelchair accessible,” Gottfredsen said.

It will be about 900 square feet in size. which is similar to the present location. And there will be a small parking lot available in the front of the shop, he said.

Signage will go up as well as the old red, white and blue barber pole which is being reconditioned, he said.

Presently, there are two barbers, Gottfredsen and James Rivas, who has worked at Austin’s Barber Shop for about two years.

“We are both excited about the move,” said Rivas, who has 15 years of experience barbering and also offers the old-fashioned hot towel shaves with a razor.

Plans are to place one more chair in the new location and hire a man or woman for the job, Gottfredsen said.

At 71, he plans on going more part-time in the future, but he is not ready to give up his barbering skills for a while, he said.

“This keeps me young,” he added.

While the service at the shop goes on daily, the busiest times of the year are those leading up to when school starts, Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day, Gottfredsen said.

He and his wife, Kim, moved to Beloit in the late 1970s. He first worked for the late Charlie Wilson and then went on to work for Mathew “Matty” Austin. By 1983, Austin, 77, wanted to slow down and when he told Gottfredsen, he feared Austin would close the shop.

But the doors did not close, instead, to his surprise, Austin turned the business over to Gottfredsen and then asked to work part-time for him.

He has kept the namesake going and that will continue along with the iconic images of the old-fashioned barber shop.

The proprietor is a lover of history and thus, the barber shop is known for such items as its vintage barber chairs, historic photos of Beloit and its barbers; pennants for the Cubs, Braves, Beloit College and Carthage College and shaving mugs.

Hot towel shaves will still be given.

And the more than 100 Coca-Cola bottles he has been given from around the world will likely still be on display along with the cola machine from 1954.

And of course, the airplane chair, made just for kids, will still grace Austin’s Barber Shop.

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