Barber Austin Schlosser is happy to take just a little bit off the top and even up your sideburns. Or, if you prefer, he can fix you up with one of those buzzed-on-the-side, long-on-top haircuts that are so popular with millennials.
“That style is considered the hipster haircut, but it’s pretty much just a business haircut with short sides. A lot of times they ask for a hard part, with a razor, so that’s pretty interesting,” said Schlosser, owner of Jim and Austin’s Barber Shop at 2225 Main, St. No. 5, in the Billings Heights.
Schlosser has a number of barbers in his family tree: two great uncles and one cousin have practiced the tonsorial art.
“When I was in high school, I noticed that there weren’t too many people going into the barber field, so I went to barber school,” said Schlosser who grew up in Shepherd. Ten years after Schlosser went into business, the old fashioned barber shop has become a neighborhood fixture.
Going to an old-fashioned barber shop has proven to be popular with younger customers, Schlosser said.
Jim Teter, who sold the business to Schlosser, still comes into the shop, mostly to catch up with old friends and to handle the overflow if it gets busy.
Striking up a conversation with customers comes with the territory when you’re a barber, Schlosser said. Sports and politics are two frequent topics, although some customers prefer to talk about their jobs and families.
Shlosser said his clientele definitely leaned toward Trump prior to the 2016 election.
“Honestly, I think the Clinton supporters didn’t’ talk about politics much because they knew she was trailing in Montana,” he said. “I’m just glad the election is over.”
Some customers even opt for a straight razor shave each time they come in.
“It’s kind of like women who get their nails done. They like being pampered,” Schlosser said. “A straight razor shave is a whole process.”
When he’s not cutting hair, Schlosser gets his kicks in an activity that reminds many adults of their time in elementary PE classes. He’s the director of Go Kickball League in Billings. The league is for people who like to stay active but don't pursue competitive sports.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? I have recently started a family and I have had to close the barber shop for unexpected reasons without having coverage to stay open. I am for the most part a one-man show, so this is definitely a challenge for me.
What’s the best business advice you have received? I was told that in order to run a successful business, you have to be involved and give back to the community that you serve. Being involved in the Heights Optimists Club and The Billings Jaycees has brought great networking opportunities for me and I enjoy giving back time and money to those in need within the community of Billings.
Who gave you that advice? The North Dakota Barber Board.
Which living person do you most admire? My father, Curtiss Schlosser. He has taught me to value family, work hard for the things that I want, and live a simple life.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? I have many elderly customers, and when I am able to give them a haircut to make them feel better about themselves and bring them confidence, it brings me so much joy. I offer home visits and nursing home visits, and those customers are the most appreciative. I also enjoy the personal connections that I get to make with all of my customers at the shop.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I was able to buy a business at 19 years of age and make it grow into a profitable and growing business.
I’m happiest when I’m…in my boat on the Yellowstone catching some catfish.