Jake Friesen, also known as “Milky,” has been barbering for 50 years. He started in Winnipeg, in 1968, where he completed his schooling.
In 1970, with a family started, they moved back to Winkler and built Jake’s Hairstyling and Barbershop on Main Street at the corner of Harmony Drive. Jake remembers “the empty lot cost him $1,250. At that time Main Street was still gravel north of the railway tracks and dead ended at Highway 14. Haircuts were $1.50, kids and seniors were $1.00.”
Jake also invested in a friend’s business at that time, American HiFi in Winnipeg and he sold stereos out of his barber shop. Jake says “I think people liked my music.” He also claimed that business was good right from the beginning, “maybe because I was the first to take appointments, customers could book their time.”
In the 70’s long hair was in style. But that wasn’t part of Jake’s training. He became the “Flat Top” king. That being different from a “Brush Cut” as it has short sides that go straight up and longer in the front than the back, so the top is flat. He recalls doing 9 Flat Tops in one day!
He also recalls doing the final touches on Leonard Buhler’s Flat Top when Leonard sneezed. Jake says “I can usually see a sneeze coming on, but Leonard was so fast he caught me off guard and I cut the front right off. We both had a good laugh as I fixed him up with a very short Brush Cut.”
In 1984 Jake needed more space and bought the existing Hairway Studios in the downtown mall and hired more staff. A few years later his wife Ruth got certified and joined him and they worked together for many years. Ruth claims “Jake is still cutting some of his original customers! Probably because Jake has never given a bad haircut!”
They were the only place in town that had a tanning bed, where Jake could often be caught napping!
Jake always had a sense of humour and was good for one liners. Former Southland Honda Owner/Manager Al Ens recalls Jake asking him “How the Al are you, and how short today, one finger or two”? One of Jake’s favourites was “come in for an estimate.” By 2013 they felt uncertain of their future in the mall as the Health Clinic continued expanding their needs for more space. So, they sold the business. But they didn’t quit cutting hair. They can both still be found on a casual basis, clipping away, Ruth at The Buhler Centre and Jake at Eclipse Salon and Spa.
Former MLA Peter George Dyck, who doesn’t have much hair, says “Jake used to charge me for a finders fee, but really I think I just went for the visit.” He also fondly recalls being in a trumpet trio with Jake and Gary Pollard.
Jake can still be seen blowing his horn on occasions, like Remembrance Day.
Former Mayor Neil Schmidt says” Jake and I go way back, he used to cut my hair before he was licensed, I was sort of a guinea pig for Jake to practice on.”
It has its rewards says Jake “it’s a very social job where you get to know what people up to and keep up on what’s going on around town.”
You can catch Jake in the coffee shops these days, twice on most days, with all the friends he’s made over the years. Still going strong after 50 years in the hair business.