Ames barber Monty Brown retires after 40 years

By Katherine Klingseis, katherine.klingseis@iowastatedaily.com

Monty Brown is more than just a barber. He is also a news source, sports commentator and therapist. Recently, he added another label to the list: retiree.

After more than 40 years of being a barber, Brown retired from the business on Saturday. He hosted a retirement party Saturday morning to thank all of his loyal customers.

“I’ve had people call me that I haven’t even talked to in 20-some years [who] figured out I was retiring, so they called me,” he said. “That’s what means a lot.”

Brown grew up in Henderson, a small town in southwest Iowa. He became interested in becoming a barber after his best friend decided to attend barber school. Brown realized that a career as a barber had many of the occupational qualities he was looking for.

“Probably at that time, I had hay fever and allergies and stuff, and I thought, ‘I really can’t work outside a lot in the summer time, it would be difficult, so I need to find an inside job that I didn’t have to go to college to get,'” Brown said. “Barber school was a good choice — a very good choice.”

Brown and his friend attended a barber school in Sioux City. He explained that the school was in a run-down area of the city.

“It was in the lower fourth of Sioux City — it was kind of skid row,” he said. “So, you would work on people from skid row.”

After finishing barber school, Brown’s best friend was hired at a barber shop in Gilbert. He told Brown of a job opening in Ames.

“The barber shop [my best friend] was going into, one of the guys was starting his own place, and he said, ‘You know what, there’s a job opening,'” Brown said. “So, I came up, and I got the job. That was in 1968.”

The next year, Brown was drafted into the army, where he served for two years. On his return, he began working at a barber shop on West St. After working there six years, Brown decided to move across the street to 2801 West St. to open his own barber shop.

The building that Monty’s Barber Shop is located in has been a barber shop since 1917, Brown explained. He contributes the barber shop’s long-life and success to the presence of Iowa State in the community.

“I don’t know the ratio of guys to girls, but I think there are about 3,000 new guys in town every year,” he said. “I thank Iowa State for my good fortune.”

Brown explained that the most important part of his job was getting to know his customers.

“There are a lot of great people, a lot of crazy people,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of fun with them.”

After 40 years of serving a countless number of customers, Brown has decided it is time to retire. His decision was made after returning from a vacation in August.

“I came back from vacation last August, and I was like, ‘You know what, I really don’t want to do this again,'” He said. “I just had too good of a time.”

As a retiree, Brown plans on spending more time with his family. He also intends to travel to a lot of places, including Alaska, Hawaii and the Panama Canal.

“I’ve got a lot of things I want to do,” he said. “Things I haven’t had time to do for the last 40 years.”

Brown’s replacement, Troy Cakerice, officially took over the business on Saturday. Cakerice has Brown’s stamp of approval.

“I’m going to go to Troy [for a haircut],” Brown said. “I’m going to come back as a customer.”

As a barber, Brown hopes to be remembered for “doing the best job [he could] do, and just being a fair guy.”

“That will be good enough,” he said. “That’s why they keep coming back.” 

(Posted originally on Iowastatedaily.com on May 14, 2011)

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