Chad Weinstein, who consults on leadership and ethics with public safety departments and businesses, enjoys Grain Exchange barber Bob Haddow.
"As a generally bald person, my hair is not a big challenge," said Weinstein, who visited Haddow's downtown Minneapolis shop for the last time this week. "I've been coming back since 2015 for the quality of the conversation. I mean, I walked into an eclectic place and started having interesting discussions with this guy who's an art historian, who's written books for the Smithsonian Institute."
Haddow, 66, an employee or owner of the shop since 2011, will cut his last hair on Friday. He couldn't come to terms on a new short-term lease until the owner plans to refresh the historic lobby.
"This has become a tough place to be a barber," Haddow said. "You need a [key card] to get into the building. The skyway is closed, and there's only one open entrance to the building."
His business has yet to recover from the COVID-19 economic disruption and the new hybrid model of many office workers returning downtown only part time, if at all.
The historic Grain Exchange building is owned by Princeton, N.J.-based Miami International Holdings, owner of several electronic exchanges. Miami International, which has an offering before securities regulators to become a public company, acquired the Grain Exchange for an unspecified sum in 2020.
The two-building complex, connected by a skyway at 4th Street and S. 4th Avenue, includes the 16,000-square-foot former trading floor that is now occupied by Fueled Collective. The shared office space sits where traders from the likes of Pillsbury, Cargill and International Multifoods vociferously once made markets in myriad grains, including the Minneapolis-exchange prized Hard Red Spring Wheat market.
The members of the exchange owned the building cooperatively.
"Like all great capitalists they [did business] as communists," quipped Haddow, who still cuts the hair of retired traders who like to journey downtown.
The building bears an estimated market value of $7.3 million, according to Hennepin County records. Sounds low for the upticking Downtown East neighborhood.
How many barbers can count members of the Minneapolis Police Department bomb squad as customers? They enter from a rear door, a block from their mobile headquarters.
Alan King, a northeast Minneapolis attorney and former military intelligence officer, appreciates the intricate flattop Barber Bob provides and the rotating art that adorns the walls and shelves.
"It's not a simple haircut," King insisted. "Flat on top and shaved sides. But more nuanced. Bob is the best. He can talk about anything. And the art. There was the contemporary stuff, including Bob's paintings from St. Paul Saints games and the cartoon characters. And pictures from a Minneapolis speakeasy 100 years ago."
King has anxiety about Haddow leaving.
"I go back to work or court or take a deposition," he said. "Bob lets me wash my own hair, so I don't get hair in my collar. How many barbers let you do that?"
This month Haddow, who charged $20 to $25 for a haircut, has sold thousands of dollars worth of stuff, from books to barber chairs, paintings, pinup calendars and Playboy magazines from the 1970s.
One man this month told Haddow that his father, a lawyer in the building, told the son he was conceived in a barber's chair during a hiatus from a 1970s holiday party.
Haddow did not set out to be a barber.
He was painting at a Saints game in 1997 when he noticed that the nun who did massages at Midway Stadium and the guy who cut hair made a lot more money.
He went to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to be a barber.
Robert Hamilton Haddow is Canadian-born and holds a doctorate of art history from the University of Minnesota. He is a former fellow at the Smithsonian Institute, also is a writer who penned "Material Culture and the Cold War: International Trade Fairs and the American Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair."
Haddow met his wife at a summer camp north of Toronto. He was 19; she was 16. They went to college in Virginia. Haddow followed her to Minnesota when she earned a medical residency in the late 1980s.
Dr. Susan Haddow practices medicine at Hennepin Healthcare.
Haddow is thinking about occupying a chair at a friend's barbershop near the Schooner Tavern in the Seward neighborhood. Closer to home.