Jim’s Barber Shop closes doors

John Jared Hawks
Dale Collins, a Jim's Barber Shop customer for nearly 30 years, gets his last haircut Thursday from Susan Goracke.

This week marks the end of an era for one of Ottawa’s most iconic storefronts.

"I've met so many great people, and made so many friends," said Susan Goracke. "I know one family I've worked on four generations."

Susan Goracke, owner and operator of Jim's Barber Shop, located southeast of 15th and Main streets in Ottawa, announced she will be closing up shop Thursday, which is also her birthday.

Originally located closer to Ottawa's downtown, Jim's Barber Shop moved to its current location in the early 1970s. The shop’s founding nearly 50 years ago was the lifelong dream of Susan’s husband and the shop’s namesake, Jim Goracke, who passed up a chance to play sports in college to attend barber school and start his own business. Soon after, Jim recruited Susan into what soon became a family business.

"He called me one day and said he had too much business for one person, but not enough to feed another family," she said. "So I enrolled in barber school."

Susan spent nine months in barber school but afterward learned that her industry education had only begun.

“When I first started out — there had been a woman barber in Ottawa years before, so I was the only one at the time — a lot of guys were like, ’I don't know if I want a woman cutting my hair,’ ” Susan said. “They wouldn't want to talk to me like they would to Jim, so I told them, ’Tell me your stories, Jim won't remember them anyway.’ That broke the ice, and after a while I ended up with nearly as many customers that would come to me as Jim.”

Carrying on

Times were difficult the first few weeks after her husband’s death in 2000, Susan said.

"I had a lot of customers that we just sat and cried together," she said.

Some customers were unsure about returning to Jim’s Barber Shop after Jim’s death.

“I had some that told me, ’I don't know if I can come back or not, I would always talk hunting and fishing with Jim,’ ” Susan said. “I said, ’I can talk that just as good as him,’ and besides that, I was the only one in our house with a deer head mounted on the wall. Most of them ended up coming back.”

Susan has continued the shop’s legacy up to the present day and said the relationships she has developed have been the most rewarding part of her career.

“I had a family come back from Arizona because they wanted their kid to have their first haircut here,” Susan said, smiling. “I got to work with my husband and my son for a time. My youngest customer was 2 weeks old, and the oldest one has been 100. It's been a good career.”