Midway barber cuts through the competition for 25 years

Midway Barber Shop owner David Cleary cuts the hair of long-time client Frances Hughes.  The shop has been under the Cleary family’s ownership for 25 years. - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Midway Barber Shop owner David Cleary cuts the hair of long-time client Frances Hughes. The shop has been under the Cleary family’s ownership for 25 years.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Frances Hughes has been getting his hair cut at Midway Barber Shop for 29 years.

He said he became a loyal customer because of Liz Cleary Rumsey, mother of current owner, David Cleary.

“She was the only one I let cut my hair,” Hughes said. “Why? She was the only good barber in this town.”

Liz and David Cleary both got into the barber business around the same time and purchased Midway Barber Shop 25 years ago on June 1.

She and Cleary worked side by side until she retired in 2007 and passed away in 2011.

Hughes said he used to only let Liz cut his hair.Now, only Cleary cuts his hair.

“I stuck with them,” Hughes said.

Midway Barber Shop, previously owned by Rob Hood, has been a staple of the local haircutting industry for 56 years.

Self-described as “old school,” Cleary said Midway Barber Shop is a throwback type shop, specializing in tight, short haircuts for both men and women.

Cleary’s shop is also one of the few places a man can get a shave with a straight razor.

Haircuts are $15, and Cleary only accepts cash or check.

Hughes, who used to help run North Whidbey Help House, said he is impressed by the family’s willingness to give free haircuts to the community’s needy and homeless. Cleary is also known to visit long-time clients at the hospital or retirement homes after they are unable to come to the shop, according to Hughes.

“He does that,” Hughes said.

“Those tiny things like taking care of people and building this thing called respect.”

Hughes’ wife, Mary, started coming to see Cleary about three years ago.

“He talked me into it,” said Mary Hughes, who sports a short hairstyle. “I was paying too much money at the beauty shops.”

While traditional hair stylists are trained in a variety of hair treatments, including coloring and perms, barbers are trained for 10 months exclusively on short hair cuts, Cleary said.

“They’re good at that, we’re good at the cutting,” Cleary said.

The cutting and shaving expertise will continue in the Cleary family. His two daughters, Sarah Betts and Shawna Ritter, joined the business last year.

“After grandma passed, I started to think about it,” Betts said. “Dad was his own boss, got to do what he wanted and always had money in his pocket.”

“I did the research,”  Ritter said. “We decided to do it together. We do a lot of things together.”

“We’re super close.”

Cleary said he was careful to help his daughters choose a school that taught the type of cutting and shaving techniques used by him and his mother.

Cleary served four years in the Navy as a cook on submarines. As a result, he feels an affinity for the young sailors and aging veterans who use his services. He has also cut the hair of some children all the way up through adulthood.

“Some of these kids, I give their first haircut up through college,” Cleary said. “They’re like extended family.”

Cleary said he is grateful for the patronage of the community and looks forward to more years of giving quality haircuts.


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