Business & Economy

Grain Exchange Barbershop closing after 120 years in downtown Minneapolis

A man stands in a barbershop room with his arms crossed.
Barber Bob Haddow looks over his barbershop during the closing sale Sunday, March 19, 2023. The building was recently sold and will be getting a remodel, so Haddow is shutting down the business. 
Estelle Timar-Wilcox | MPR News

Bob Haddow, also known as Barber Bob, gets all sorts of clients at his Grain Exchange Barbershop — baseball players, judges, police officers, strippers, city workers — anyone who happens to be looking for a haircut in downtown Minneapolis. 

But his clients will soon have to find a new barber: the shop is closing its doors at the end of the month, after more than 120 years in business. The building was recently sold and will be getting a remodel, so Haddow is shutting down the business.  

Haddow opened up the shop on Saturday and Sunday for a sale. He’s collected a lot of memorabilia in his ten years as the shop’s owner: photography, art, knickknacks filling the shelves, calendars, an old typewriter. Even the two barber chairs were for sale.  

A lot of the art is his own. Haddow has a doctorate in art history, and he spends his off days at Minneapolis’s art museums.  

Several of the paintings on the walls of his shop are from a series he did of the St. Paul Saints baseball games in the 1990s. One depicts Ila Borders, the first woman to pitch in a professional men’s baseball game. Many show larger-than-life figures gazing down over the stadium from the skyline — one shows Jesus, another Abraham Lincoln. 

“These are crazy folk art style paintings,” Haddow said. “Nobody really understood them, and I never really found a market for them. But in the barbershop, they've been perfect. They're great decorations, and they're talking points.”  

And talking to people is Haddow’s favorite part of the job. He’s built a lot of relationships with his clients over the years. 

“When I'm in the barbershop talking to people, I'm happy, because I'll be talking just like I'm teaching in school or something, except I don't have students with me, I have just other people who we can have these conversations with,” Haddow said. “I can have fun with it all.” 

Haddow has run the barbershop for about ten years now. He took it over just after the exchange closed its trading floor and moved to an electronic platform. Since then, he’s seen downtown change and develop — and, in the last few years, get quieter.  

In 2020, Miami International Holdings bought the Grain Exchange. All of the other businesses in the downtown building lobby have closed. 

But the barbershop has stayed mostly the same. He still charges $25 for every haircut — except for one buddy who usually pays him with a bottle of wine.  

A sign reads "Haircuts $25. Buzz Cuts $20."
The barbershop's prices are displayed on the wall.
Estelle Timar-Wilcox | MPR News

Haddow is sad to see it go. He said he doesn’t come across many little shops like this anymore, and his hopes for what will happen to the space aren’t very high.  

“It’s eventually gonna be renovated, and they’re gonna need another salon or something in here, and it’ll be a Great Clips,” he speculated. “$50 haircut and $100 worth of shampoo.”  

But Haddow isn’t going far. Since he announced that the shop is closing, he’s had a lot of offers of new spaces he could move to. He’s still weighing his options, but he says he’ll be staying in Minneapolis.  

Wherever he ends up next, he’s hoping he’ll still be able to meet people from all corners of the city.   

“That's what you are as a barber, you're in the middle,” Haddow said. “And, of course, my training as an historian and all the things that I've written and painted — it all comes from other people's stories and trying to stay in the rhythm of the city.” 

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