Longtime barber plans retirement with memories of clients, plans for adventures

His customers were loyal ‘and I loved them all,’ Bowman says.

Popular barber Bob Bowman is cutting himself loose after a 60-year career. When he left Fairview High School, the native Daytonian went to Dayton Barber College, then got a job at a barber shop in the Miracle Lane Shopping Center on Salem Avenue, now long gone. He spent two years in the Army, one in Vietnam, before returning to Dayton to open his own shop.

“I owned the building with two businesses at 614 North Main St., by White Allen Chevrolet, across from the Varsity Bowling Alley,” he said. “Bowman’s Hair Design was on one side, and the Chili King on the other – both were very popular and stayed busy.”

His customers were loyal “and I loved them all,” he said. “It was a melting pot – they ranged from police to gangsters to motorcycle gang members and priests, and everyone in between. One day, I was stopped for speeding, but when the officer pulled me over and saw who I was, he said ‘Bob, I can’t give you a ticket, I’ve got an appointment at 3!’”

Longtime friend Martha Carey, a cosmetologist, was the first woman to work in the shop. “Bob went back to school and got his cosmetology license, and I trained another woman, Kelly Rose,” said Carey, who worked in the shop for a year, just long enough to train Rose.

“It was a barbershop, but changed into a beauty shop,” said Bowman. “Mostly men worked for me, but Kelly worked there for 18 years and did all the fancy stuff.”

Bowman did business on North Main for 40-plus years, serving four generations, “but then the state bought the property and tore down the building.”

His niece, Lisa Craft, owns Changes, a shop in West Carrollton, so Bowman moved his business there. “Many of my regular customers stuck with me through everything – the loss of my wife, two hip replacements when I was off for six weeks each time, and then the change to West Carrollton. I’ve got a woman who drives in from Sidney for her haircuts, quite a few from Tipp City, Huber Heights and even old customers from North Dayton.”

Craft, who’s had her shop for almost 26 years, said “We always did both men and women, and so does he, so he fit right in. When he started, my mom, his sister, worked here, too, but we lost her in 2018.

“Bob’s been the best blessing in the world – he’s so much fun, always in a good mood, and the clients and employees love him. He worked full time until just a few years ago, when he started cutting back, but he’d still come in if an old customer called.”

Bowman’s down to two hours a day, four days a week, and, after 60 years in the business, is planning on retiring. “I’ve been attending too many viewings of my old customers,” he noted.

But he hasn’t lost his adventuresome spirit or energy. At one time the owner of four motorcycles, he says “I used to ride everywhere, but am trying to give it up since my balance isn’t so good anymore.”

Now, he owns just one Harley, but is proud of the more than $60,000 he raised during the Muscular Dystrophy Rides. “My customers would kick in and support my rides - they’d sign a chart in the shop, and at the end of the ride we’d recognize those who gave the most.”

At 77, Bowman still enjoys new adventures, and plans on more in retirement. On his 75th birthday, he jumped from an airplane and enjoyed it so much that he did it again. “And, this summer, I want to jump with my son and granddaughter - three generations,” he said.

Contact this writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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