Hudsonville — In 1963, when Don Vruggink first started working at the local barber shop, he charged $1.25 for a haircut.
At the time, three haircuts would earn him enough money to fill his car’s gas tank.
In recent years, Vruggink charged a little bit more for a trim at the Hudsonville barber shop, all while maintaining the same coffee-shop-style atmosphere.
After 54 years of service, Vruggink, 73, retired on Dec. 29 and closed Don’s Barber Shop in Hudsonville.
His phone rang off the hook in the weeks leading up to his last day because people were trying to get a haircut in before he was done for good, said his daughter, Stacey Zeeff.
She said everyone in the community knows her dad, and his shop is like a coffee shop. People like to come in and chat.
Vruggink, a native of Hudsonville, graduated from the high school across the street from the barber shop. He went off to barber school after graduating and on July 17, 1963, he started working at the shop.
When he thinks about how many customers and all the money that have gone through his shop doors, he wonders what happened to all the money.
A rough patch for the barber shop was when they “went through the long hair thing in the 70s,” he said, jokingly.
He has been serving some families for five generations.
“It’s been a lot of good times and I always say the one who was always behind me was my wife,” Vruggink said.
Vruggink said his wife has always been supportive throughout 51 years of marriage.
He said he plans on staying busy in retirement with a woodworking shop at home, and he and his wife like to travel.
He made the decision to retire when a developer wanted to buy him out, so he thought it was time for the younger generation to take over, he said.
“I don’t want to stand in the way of progress,” he said.
Vruggink said he has always felt it’s important to have a relationship with his clientele. He said not having that relationship anymore will be the hardest part of retiring.
Vruggink’s last two haircuts went to the highest bidders. He thought this would be a fun way to say thank you to all his customers for his 54 years of business, Zeeff said.
The proceeds will be donated to Cran Hill Ranch in Rodney, Michigan.
Now that he’s done, Vruggink said he won’t think about the money he made as a barber, but what he gave to people.
“I hope my footprints behind me are going to be positive and good,” he said. “That’s always my goal and my wish and my prayer every day.”