Bill Weston steps down today after more than 300,000 St. Thomas haircuts
When The Aquin student newspaper did a feature story a few years ago on University of St. Thomas barber Bill Weston, it said that when “Weston finally decides to hang up the cutting shears, he said he will miss the customers and great memories they have left him with.”
It happened. Weston is turning over the shears to a new barber today, and he still agrees that he will miss his customers the most. He probably wouldn’t call them his customers, though; he’d call most of them his friends.
“St. Thomas has been a great place to have a shop,” he said late last week while giving one of his last haircuts as the university’s full-time barber. “The people are the best. People here care about other people.”
After 35 years and 300,000-plus haircuts at St. Thomas, Bill Wetson is retiring. He plans to work on Mondays, though.
Weston, 64, is retiring after cutting hair for 39 years, all but four at St. Thomas. The new owner of Hairworks, located in the lower level of Murray-Herrick Campus Center, is Zach Pease, 28, of Eden Prairie. Pease has been working at Dick’s Barbershop in South Minneapolis and is looking forward to working on a university campus.
“Zach is going to fit in well here,” Weston said. “He’s a real nice guy and laid back. He’s even more laid back than me. I think he’s going to fit in with customers both young and old.”
For the foreseeable future, Weston is going to work at Hairworks on Mondays.
In a note Weston sent to Bulletin Today, he asked to “give my thanks to all customers for 35 enjoyable and interesting years.”
According to a Web site that keeps track of various facts and figures about St. Thomas, it is estimated that Weston has given 313,957 haircuts at the university.
The Web site didn’t keep track of how many shaves Weston has given. He stopped giving them some years ago when he switched from a more traditional barber chair to a newer, styling chair.
“To give a shave you need a head rest so the customer can put his head back and a foot rest so he can put his feet up,” said Weston, who trained at two schools before coming to St. Thomas. “We first learned to give shaves with a straight-edge razor by practicing on balloons covered with shaving cream. When we could do that, they let us do humans.”
Weston is an honorary member of the St. Thomas Quarter Century Club, which is made up of staff and faculty members who have worked here at least 25 consecutive years. Weston is not a St. Thomas employee, but university officials made an exception in Weston’s case and he was inducted as an honorary member several years ago.
He recalls that when he was in school to learn his craft, they taught about hair cutting and styling, but didn’t go into an important part of his work.
He knows the life stories of many of his customers, and he takes the matter of confidentiality seriously. He knows about the joys of their graduations and marriages and sports victories, and he knows about their pains with school troubles, divorces and deaths.
“I remember a professor who came in for a haircut and was talking about his mother who had just passed away. I looked down on the floor and noticed some drops of water, and then realized they were tears. It was sad. I think it helped that he could talk to me.
“This is a very personal business, really,” he said. “Sometimes my customers are my counselors, and sometimes I’m a counselor to my customers, or at least someone they can talk to. That’s friendship, that’s what friends do.
“They also trust that what we talk about remains between us. I don’t think I would have been here for 35 years if I didn’t honor that trust,” Weston said.
About two-thirds of his customers have been students, and a third have been staff, faculty and neighbors. Some faculty and staff who were old when Weston started in 1971 have long-since retired and many have passed on. His longest customer is his now-retired State Farm Insurance agent. Weston has been cutting his hair since 1967.
He also has a number of father-son customers, and for awhile, he was cutting three generations of hair for the Dr. Thomas Connery family. Connery, of the Journalism Department, was until recently dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Weston, who lives in Oakdale (near Hill-Murray High School ) plans to take his retirement “a year at a time.” He’s looking forward to some travel, golf, fishing, carpentry, getting lots of exercise and “getting my ducks in a row.”
The phone number for Hairworks is unchanged: (651) 962-6010. Also unchanged is that you can call for an appointment, or stop by and see if there’s room on the schedule.
“Zach will take good care of your hair,” Weston said.