Mound City native takes over a Main Street institution

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

Mitchell Wood decided to give up the life of a railroad worker and go to school to become a barber. In early September, he took over the barbershop run by David Wakefield for decades. (Roger Sims, Linn County Journal)

The purring of electric clippers. The quiet but decisive shearing sound as both blades of the scissor lop off hair. The gliding of the shavette almost noiselessly over the customer’s face, giving a smooth, close shave. The talk of events, current and past, along with jokes and critiques on the follies of man.

Mitchell Wood, a Mound City native with strong ties to family in the area, has always liked the atmosphere of the barbershop. So a little over a year ago, he decided to quit his 14-year career with the railroad and sign up for barber college.

He didn’t know where he was going to practice his trade, because Mound City already had a barber: David Wakefield. He just knew what he wanted his new career to be.

It was in Wakefield’s single-chair shop on Main Street in Mound City that Wood learned to love the sights, sounds and smells of the barbershop. Wakefield had been cutting hair for 60 years, and his shop on Main Street in Mound City was the last barbershop in the county.

So as Wood was completing the approximately 1,500 hours of coursework at the college, he found out that Wakefield was going to retire.

“I always liked the barbershop atmosphere,” Wood said. That included listening to the older men talking about the town’s history.

So the two struck a deal, and when Wakefield retired, Wood was reading to pick up his clippers on Sept. 1.

Last year was a tough year for many personal service businesses like barbers, hairstylists and even doctors and dentists. Uncertainty about the spread of COVID-19 had many customers putting off haircuts and other appointments.

But many barbers in small towns in the area had already closed up shop. Sports-themed shops in the metro area had taken some business, and others started going to local salons. Still, Wakefield’s shop continued to be the place for a cut and a shave.

Probably more than anything, though, it continued to be a place where men stopped in to discuss affairs of the day. It was little wonder that Wakefield was featured prominently as the de facto historian in “The Original Jayhawker,” a recent documentary on Mound City produced locally by Sue Vicory. David and Peggy Wakefield were both honored at the debut of the movie last month.

Wakefield’s contribution to the community is important, and that is the reason Wood will be sticking with the business name David’s Barbershop. As he points out, “It’s a Mound City institution.”

As always, history is the record of change, and Wood takes over at a time when styles for men are changing. While most of his customers are still wanting the regular cut, high school students and younger men have discovered his shop, where they can get a custom fade.

And many of them are wearing their hair longer, and with his recent training he can give them trims that accent that look.

As his business continues to grow, Wood said he wants to add a good grooming product line and also develop a reputation for something he likes to do: trim and shape beards. But most of all, he wants new customers to realize the masculine appeal of the barbershop.

His younger customers are finding they like what a barbershop offers. “They prefer coming to a guy’s place,” Wood said.

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