Ron Owen retires

Forest City barber Ron Owen, who retired just before Christmas, cuts Scott Hagenson's hair during his last week on the job.  

FOREST CITY | The last remaining barber in Forest City has retired.

After nearly 48 years of cutting hair in North Iowa, Ron Owen had his final customer on Dec. 22.

During his last week at Progressive Image, Owen said he was looking forward to retirement but would miss his customers.

Some of them began coming to him for haircuts in the 1970s. 

"It's been great over the years," Owen said.

Saying goodbye to his regular customers has been difficult.

"I have been telling them they have to look for somebody new," he said. "It makes it kind of tough on the customer too."

He said there's a lot fewer barbers nowadays. Many of the towns surrounding Forest City don't have one anymore, he noted.

Owen grew up on a farm near Lytton. After graduating from Sioux City Barber College in the 1960s, he began cutting hair in Cedar Rapids. 

After three years he took a break from barbering and worked in management for Pizza Hut.

Ron and his wife, Linda, moved to Lake Mills in 1970, where he opened a barber shop. Ron opened another shop in Thompson, where he worked in the evenings while continuing to cut hair in Lake Mills. 

In late 1973, he bought his own barber shop in Forest City, located right across from the movie theater. For a few months he continued to cut hair in Thompson as well.

His wife, Linda, a licensed cosmetologist, later opened a beauty salon in the Forest City shop, so they called the place Ron and Linda's.

Over the years the name of the business changed to Progressive Image. At one time it was located on U.S. Highway 69 before moving to its final home at 246 N. Fourth St.

Linda retired eight years ago. Now that Ron has also retired, he has sold the building to Eddy's Glass & Door. It will be used for storage.

Hairstyles have changed a lot over the years, Ron said. 

When he first started cutting hair in Cedar Rapids, flattop haircuts were still popular with his customers who were executives at Collins Radio (now Rockwell Collins). 

In those days boys were sporting the "John-John" cut, made popular by the young son of President John F. Kennedy. 

Later on longer hair became the trend, particularly with young people.

Hair nowadays is "a little bit of everything," Owen said.

"It's a blend of the old and new," he added, noting flattops have made a comeback.

The Owens like to go to Lake Elysian in Minnesota in the summer.

Now that both of them are retired, "we will probably enjoy spending a little more time at the lake," Ron said. 

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