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IC barbershop turns 50

BY AARON WALKER | NOVEMBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Each week The Daily Iowan will provide an in-depth look at one Iowa City business.

Clinton Street’s family-owned Hawkeye Barbers is celebrating 50 years of clippers and crew cuts this month.

Richard Pieper and Charlie Clarahan opened the shop in November 1964.  Now, the family business is owned and operated by son Mark Pieper.

“It’s nice that it’s been in the family for 50 years,” Richard Pieper said.  “It was nice [to pass it down].  I never encouraged [my children] to follow me; they just chose to do that.”

Before Hawkeye Barbers, Richard Pieper and Clarahan worked together at the now closed Meyer’s Barbershop.

The two moved out of their original location in the Berkeley Imperial Hotel, which was across the street from Schaeffer Hall, into a trailer during Iowa City’s urban renewal project in the ’70s.

They subsequently moved into their more permanent and current home at 124 S. Clinton St.

“I got a tip on a place that was for sale, talked to him, and we decided why not [open a shop] together,” Clarahan said.  “We wanted to make people happy. Not to brag, but we were both friendly, and I think very good barbers, too.”

Their biggest struggle emerged about a decade into their business.

“The long hairstyle got popular in the ’70s, and of course everybody had short hair but wanted it shoulder length,” Pieper said. “Where we worked, our nine chairs went down to two people.”

Soon after, Clarahan decided to transition into the insurance business after near fatal disease and surgeries at the age of 26.

Clarahan said their friendship was never hindered by their separate ventures.

“It wasn’t anything against the business or working with [Pieper], but it really probably helped us both out,” Clarahan said. “[Pieper] treated me more than nice and we are still very good friends.”

Today, Mark Pieper runs the store while wife Kelly Pieper holds the clippers. Richard Pieper said his son has owned the shop since 1994, and Kelly Pieper has worked there since 1999.

The business has evolved from a classic barbershop but retains its old-school feel.  Now they cut, dye, and perm women’s hair as well.

“Working here, I’ve learned that Iowa City really is a great place to live,” Kelly Pieper said.  “You take it for granted, and you get these people from all over the world that come in and say what’s so nice about Iowa City, and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s absolutely true.’ ”

She said their customers are about half locals and half students.

“College kids come in, they stay for four years, graduate, and they leave,” Pieper said. “Some of my favorite customers have been students that I get for four years, and then they leave. It’s sad.”

She said the store has remained resilient because of its employees and its community.

Bob Hanson, who has been returning for six or seven years, agreed. 

“Well, first of all, they do a good job,” he said. “Second, of all they’re friendly, and third, Mark [Pieper] is a Packer fan like I am.”


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