Barbershop a retirement dream for Jasper man

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Michael Cravener of Jasper, right, smiles after getting his hair trimmed by then barbershop owner Leo Wahl of Ferdinand at Mike's Barber Shop on Friday in Jasper. Michael took over as owner of the barbershop on Tuesday. "Since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a barber," Cravener said. "The chairs and barber poles and the straight razors just intrigued me. And you meet so many different people."


JASPER — Longtime Main Street barber Leo Wahl has officially passed the reins of his storied barbershop to a former city employee eager to begin the next chapter of his life.

Like many who chase their once-shelved dreams in retirement, Mike Cravener’s love of old school barbershops can be traced back to his childhood.

Maybe it was the chair — he will inherit two vintage seats from Wahl — but Cravener knows there’s always been something about a straight razor that’s scratched the right spot.

Tuesday, when Cravener’s temporary salon license came in, Leo’s Barber Shop became Mike’s Barber Shop.

“About 10 years ago, I finally mentioned to my wife that, all my life, I wanted to be a barber,” Cravener, 56, of Jasper, said, recalling the conversation he had with his wife, Theresa.

She was, of course, surprised. Cutting hair and trimming beards is a far cry from the then-two decades of work in local gas and water departments her husband had under his belt.

Then barbershop owner Leo Wahl of Ferdinand, left, trims the eyebrows of Michael Cravener of Jasper at Mike's Barber Shop on Friday in Jasper.

But Theresa supported his decision, and she helped put him through school. Cravener officially retired from the City of Jasper in June 2018.

He started at Roger’s Hair Academy in Evansville that September and graduated last month. He began working alongside Wahl the day after he got his barber’s license.

About 10 years ago was also when Cravener first approached Wahl with a proposition. How would he feel about Cravener working the other chair?

“Well, I told him I’ll consider it,” Wahl reflected. “And we did. We considered it. When he got ready to retire, that was time to do it.”

Cravener said he has been blessed to have Theresa and Wahl in his life. His dreams couldn’t have come true without them.

“He’s been a blessing,” Cravener said of Wahl. “I mean, I couldn’t have done this without Leo. He afforded me the opportunity to come in here and do this. Obviously, I had to put all the work in, but really, he gave me the opportunity to do it.”

Cravener grew up in NuMine, Pennsylvania — a small coal mining town with a population of about 200 people. The man who operated the local barbershop there also worked in the mines. His name was Andy B., and now, Cravener’s faraway friends refer to him as Andy B. when they chat on Facebook.

“The more I cut, the more I like it,” Cravener said, adding that the Jasper shop reminds him of home.

Wahl is nearing his mid-80s, and he is almost ready to hang it up. He first went to barber school in 1960 when he ended his military service, and he’s cut hair ever since.

“That’s a lot of hair,” Wahl said with a laugh. He has not decided when he will stop working at the shop.

In addition to his cutting and styling services, Cravener also sells hair and beard products at the 621 Main St. shop.

The shop is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday; 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday; and 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday.

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