When you enter Red’s Barber Shop on Santa Fe Drive in downtown Overland Park, you feel like you’ve stepped into a time warp. The business looks pretty much the same as it did when it opened in 1955, all the way down to the original tile floors. “Red” was a man named Donald Hewitt, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 79. Today, Mike Gardner and Daryl Miller run the shop.
Mike has sixteen years of service under his belt at Red’s, and he’s considered the new guy. A Shawnee Mission North graduate, Mike started cutting hair in 1970 after he attended barber school in Wichita, and he considers his profession a vanishing art. Daryl has worked at Red’s for 41 years and has seen the area and the clientele change dramatically. Daryl said the popularity of The Beatles played a major role in the decline of traditional barber shops across the country. As long hair became fashionable for American men, trips to the barber shop became less frequent. He remembered that Red’s went from employing eight barbers in the early 1960s to only two by the late 1960s.
According to Mike and Daryl, the typical customers at Red’s these days are people looking for short hair cuts; older folks, police officers, and firemen. Besides the tile floors and old-fashioned barber chairs, the hundreds of hats on the walls at Red’s add to the shop’s ambiance. Daryl said they started collecting hats in the early 1980s, and they quit counting when their collection reached 900. Next time you’re downtown Overland Park, stop in to Red’s Barber Shop for a trim and some good conversation, and experience a slice of Americana that is hard to find these days.
– Matt Gilligan, Johnson County Museum