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January 29, 2014

Local barber celebrating 50 years in Mount Clemens

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

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Local barber celebrating 50 years in Mount Clemens
Bill Visnaw has enjoyed 50 years of barbering in Mount Clemens. His business, Bill Visnaw’s Styling Barber Shop, is a popular place in Macomb County.
Bill Visnaw’s Styling Barber Shop on North Walnut Street has been a staple in Mount Clemens for decades.
 

MOUNT CLEMENS — Need a trim? A shave? Just looking for a comfortable place to sit and chat with friends or quietly read the paper? For many in and around Mount Clemens, the place to go is Bill Visnaw’s Styling Barber Shop on North Walnut Street.

Visnaw has been a staple in the city since he started working with his uncle, Bill Bade, in 1963 at Bill Bade’s Barber Shop inside the old Monitor Leader Building, later the Macomb Daily offices on North River.

“I went into barbering because of my uncle,” said Visnaw, 73. “He tried to talk me out of it, but I pursued it. And I’ve never dreaded coming in to work.”

That tenacity has been a blessing of sorts for the multitude of regular customers and the generations of families who have been committed to him and his barber shop throughout the years.

Harrison Township resident Jack Wesenberg has been a customer “since before Bill was a barber.”

“I’ve been coming here since it was Bill Bade’s; probably more than 45 years now. I like the services and the pretty faces. Not Bill’s,” he said with a laugh.

Visnaw employs two additional female barbers, including Gloria Lipka, who has been giving cuts and straight-edge razor shaves since 1995.

“We’re an old-fashioned barber shop,” said Lipka. “A lot of people like to come here just to chat and read. And it hasn’t changed.”

“And that’s the way we like it,” Visnaw added. “We’re old-school.”

Going back to the early years of Visnaw’s career, Bill Bade’s Barber Shop eventually moved out of the Leader building and relocated to a store-front of what is now called the Macomb Music Theatre (previously the Emerald Theatre) in 1965.

Visnaw eventually took over the business in 1976, ultimately changing the name. An avid outdoorsman who still enjoys hiking, biking and regular scuba diving trips, Visnaw said little has changed inside his barber shop. The styling chairs, though they have been reupholstered, are between 75-80 years old, and the barber pole in front of the shop is 75 years old.

Regular clients are both men and women, though “we do not do blow drying or styling for the women — just a basic cut,” Visnaw said. Children coming in for their first cuts are also welcome. Local judges have come in to Visnaw’s over the years, as have congressmen, local military men and women, and a base commander from Selfridge.

But Visnaw and his staff especially enjoy the repeat business by the generations of regular customers, and the insurmountable number of stories that have been told and exchanged through the years.

“We’re a family business with a family atmosphere,” said Visnaw. “If ever someone was here for a cut and they didn’t have the money to pay, we go by just a handshake. ‘Pay when you can.’ Sometimes, they come back to pay and I had already forgotten about it. It’s just a comfortable place.”

Visnaw has received many accolades and honors for his years of successful business, both by the city and the county. Most recently, the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce honored him with yet another certificate, commemorating 50 years.

“It was a complete surprise,” Visnaw said of the late 2013 honor. “I was rather taken aback by it because I’m not a glory seeker.”

“At this point, my dad sees no signs of slowing down as he enjoys what he does and loves the conversations with his clientele,” said his son Bill Visnaw Jr. “My dad amazes me with the shape and condition he is in, and (I) can only hope to be in half the shape and do the things he does when I’m his age.”

The elder Visnaw admits that he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

“As long as I’m feeling well and like what I do, I’ll still be here,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1039.