Customers who have appreciated 22 years of haircuts and conversation are working to save a beloved barbershop being forced to vacate its rented space in Columbia Heights.
Owners of the building housing Sportsmen's Barbers at 914 NE. 40th Av. are not renewing the lease and are preparing to sell it to a music store and school that also lost a lease in Minneapolis.
Friends have launched a GoFundMe to help Dennis Manning find a new home for his barbershop, which is notable for the autographed sports memorabilia adorning the walls and ceiling.
"It's awesome, and a fun place to check out," said Jasvir Singh, Manning's neighbor and a customer for the past six years who helped launch the fundraising effort. "It's old-school. A relic. It's always a welcoming place."
Manning, 55, said he got a letter in late September stating that he will have to shut down the business he started from scratch.
"It is so sad looking at my walls," Manning said while packing on Monday night.
But it's equally sad for his customers, who Manning says come from across the metro area. Last week patrons came from as far away as Buffalo and Forest Lake.
"It's about how well we treat people, and the good job we do," Manning said. "There is something to be said for that."
The building dating to the 1960s no longer meets code and is in need of a new fire sprinkler system, meaning the barbershop may have had to close even if the building was not put up for sale.
Klash Drums, which is losing its lease on Lowry Avenue in northeast Minneapolis, needed a new home to continue offering drum and guitar lessons and selling musical instruments. Klash's owner, Jeremy Krueth, saw the Central Avenue building was available and made an offer. He also secured a fire-suppression grant from Columbia Heights to bring the building up to code.
"We have spent five figures on this deal. I want this deal to go through," he said.
Work to install a new sprinkler system is supposed to start Dec. 1 and take three months, Krueth said.
Krueth said he was told the current owners — HM Properties — would help Manning relocate, and feels Manning's pain of abruptly being displaced.
"We are not trying to put this guy out of business," Krueth said. "I've been kicked out of three locations in the past 20 years. Commercial leases are way different than residential."
Manning does not begrudge Krueth.
"He had the right to buy the building," Manning said.
Manning often gave back to those living in the inner-ring suburb bordering Minneapolis. He made house calls to nursing homes and gave haircuts at people's homes. Customers invited him to weddings, baptisms and graduations.
Manning also had a heart for youths, Singh said. In 2010, he promised a young man and longtime customer who was struggling in life a job cutting hair if he completed barber school. Sadly, the man was fatally stabbed before Manning could fulfill his promise.
But the offer and interest Manning took in the man and other youths "speaks to the character of Dennis," Singh said.
As of Tuesday, the GoFundMe had brought in just over $4,000 toward its $75,000 goal. Money raised will cover costs of securing a new space, equipment, licenses and moving the jerseys, baseballs and memorabilia signed by athletes, including ex-Twins stars Tony Oliva and David Ortiz.
Manning has lived through cancer twice, a divorce and nearly lost his business during the pandemic. He's not ready to lose it now.
"I am not done cutting hair," he said.