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Michel’s Barbershop in La Crosse bittersweet celebration of 100 years in business

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) –  A local barbershop is celebrating 100 years of haircuts in La Crosse. Sarah Michel took over Michel’s Barbershop on West Avenue almost 35 years ago. David Michel, her father, Clarence Michel, her grand-father, and Nick Michel, her great-grand father, all worked there. This year is a special year as she celebrates a century of service. But it’s also bittersweet because things are changing.

“There’s always the getting ready part and then you start yakking to the customers,” said Sarah, as she cut a customers hair Tuesday afternoon.

You could say being a barber is in the Michel family’s blood. Michel’s barbershop was built in 1919 at the corner of Green Bay Street and West Avenue, by Sarah’s great-grandfather Nick Michel.

“Barbershops were usually connected to bars and he had a couple barbershops, but he wasn’t a drinker, so he didn’t like it, so he built this place. Mothers started bringing their kids in and business just boomed after that.”

Generation after generation took over. Sarah’s been cutting hair there since 1984. Terry Knutson has been a customer for about five years. He said, “she just does a good job she does a haircut like they’ve done in the past.”

The walk-in only shop has stood the test of time and even made it through a tornado. With some of its original pieces still standing like the back bar.

But a lot has changed over the years. And this year will be the last. “One of the reasons I decided to close up is because I don’t like working by myself,” said Sarah, who is retiring and selling the building.

Sarah worked with her dad here until he got sick 10 years ago. “Mom would bring him in, wheel him down here and sit and talk to the customers. He did that for about six months before he passed away.”

He signed the business over to her and she’s been going at it alone ever since. “That’s what he loved best about being in here, talking to the people. I really miss him.”

It’s a tough decision that took three years to make. But one she knows is the right one for her. “I go to bed at night and I’m like ‘Dad come to me in a dream and tell me [not to sell]’. Well, he hasn’t yet so…”, she said laughing.

Sarah said the decision to close has not only been hard on her but also her clients. Some are even bribing her to stay open or have her come to their house.

She is still trying to sell the building. She is hoping to follow her passion of baking and go to culinary school and find a local job as a pastry chef. Sarah’s last day will be December 31.

Brittany Lake

Daybreak Anchor

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