February 4, 2010 at 1:00 am

Neal Rubin

Barber lays scissors down

Dave Shinske was a company man -- sort of -- at Ford

Dave Shinske is retiring after 44 years cutting hair at Ford's Glass House. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

Dave Shinske wore jeans to work last Thursday. Granted, they were neatly creased, but it was still the first time in 44 years he hadn't shown up in slacks.

"I decided to dress like I'm retiring," he said, because he was. After a full day of handshakes and congratulations and a visit from Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Shinske put away his barber tools and drove away from Ford World Headquarters into the sunset.

You probably wouldn't know it unless you park in the employee lot, but the Glass House has a full-service, open-to-the-public salon on the first floor. Shinske caught on there in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was running the country, and bought the place in 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

He's been a company man all along, though he didn't actually work for the company, and he's been a model of consistency in an inconsistent world.

Once a month, he's taken his clippers to the 12th floor to trim the august head of William Clay Ford Sr. In the old days, he cut Henry Ford II. Through 1979, he'd shave CFO J. Edward Lundy every other week at 2:30 p.m.

When Lundy died -- at 92, in 2007 -- he was neatly coiffed; Shinske had come to his house in Dearborn the day before, scissors in hand. "He hugged me," said Shinske, still relishing the honor, "and said, 'You're a good man.' "

That was pretty much the theme of the day on Thursday, and again on Friday morning when he stopped by to pick up a last few things. "I don't understand why people are making such a fuss over me," he said, but he wasn't about to stop them.

Humble beginnings

What's now the Ford World Headquarters Hair Salon was just a regular barber shop when Shinske started there: four chairs, four guys in smocks, a few tubes of Brylcreem.

At 68, he can't recall the exact date things changed, but he remembers the tones of exasperation and desperation in the voice of a manager on the phone.

"Would you do me a huge favor," he said, "and cut this woman's hair? She's making a big fuss."

Now women make up nearly half the clientele. Mary Durnian-Boiczuk of White Lake Township, who's buying the business after 14 years as second scissor, will share the storefront with new stylist Kathy Kane, a manicurist, a Tuesday masseuse and -- because some traditions are rightfully immune to alteration -- a bootblack.

Manfred Rumpel, 66, an engineer from Bloomfield Hills who retired and opened his own chassis design studio in Livonia, had been coming to Shinske for a quarter century. Friday, he had his first appointment with Durnian-Boiczuk. Before he sat down, he and Shinske hugged.

"I know this is traumatic for a lot of these guys," Durnian-Boiczuk said.

Shinske, who lives in Northville, quoted a customer who'd stopped by Thursday. "I'm OK with changing my doctor or my dentist," the man said, "but I hate to find a new barber."

Secrets safe with Shinske

As far as Shinske can tell, men don't open up to their barbers the way women do to their stylists. He learned a bit more than he cared to about a few divorces, but he'd never divulge details. And he certainly won't say anything about his time with Ford Sr., other than this: "He's the most wonderful, caring person I've ever known in my life."

Shinske never cut Mulally or Bill Ford Jr., but both signed a photo as a goodbye gift -- three handsome Mustangs, one red, one white and one blue.

"Which one can I have?" Shinske asked, but he was kidding. He drives a new black Ford Flex, and Monday he pointed it toward Sarasota, where he and his wife keep a fifth-wheel travel trailer.

Jan Shinske, a teacher, retired the same day he did. They also have a condo in Petoskey, and they plan to spend a lot of time walking on beaches while he tries to learn to sleep in.

He trained himself to wake up at 4:45 a.m., before the alarm went off. That way he could be on duty at 6 a.m. His lease said 8 a.m.-6 p.m., but he liked to catch the early risers.

Under the new management, he said, Kane will come in at 8 and Durnian-Boiczuk will arrive an hour or two later.

He shrugged. "Things change," he said.

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This photograph shows the barber shop in 1956, nine years before Dave ... (Ford Motor Co.)
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