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A snip of nostalgia: Grande Prairie’s Central Barber Shop

November 23, 2023

By: Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative

Hairstyles come and go but some things, like the Central Barber Shop in downtown Grande Prairie, remain the same. 

When you walk in, three chairs are waiting for their next clients. They may date back to the 1950s and have been reupholstered over half a dozen times, said former shop owner and barber Ross “Dick” Rosadiuk.

“If I had to do that over again, I would have recovered them with leather; it would last longer,” he says.

The shop is now owned by Heather Tomshak and Elaine Parke, who were Rosadiuk’s former employees.

Heather Tomshak, right, and Elaine Parke stop for a photo at Central Barber Shop in Grande Prairie. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

The pair have now owned the shop for almost 20 years.

“I love my job,” said Tomshak, reflecting on when the shop was closed during the pandemic. 

“I had nobody to talk to; you build your life around here,” she said.

Parke started working there in 1991 and enjoys knowing the shop is part of the city's history.

She said the people keep her inspired, noting everyone who walks through the doors is friendly.  

Ross “Dick” Rosadiuk, former owner of Central Barber Shop, still visits the barbershop for a haircut. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

Rosadiuk, 81, now retired, said he misses the people, not the work.

Tomshak said customers still ask how he is doing.

Rosadiuk can still be found at the shop occasionally, getting his hair cut and visiting his former employees.

When asked what has changed there over the many years, Tomshak quickly replied, “not a whole lot.”

The shop not only has its old chairs, but a rotary phone still hangs on the wall, large windows peer into the heart of the city, and a barber pole that once sat outside the shop is now inside. 

Rosadiuk says he took the pole inside after a few vandalism incidents; he believes it’s another relic dating back to before he purchased the shop in 1984 and may date back to the 1950s.

Heather Tomshak gives one of her regular customers a haircut. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

After some contemplation, the barbers agree that people have been the biggest change to Central Barber Shop.

Tomshak said in the past, Grande Prairie was much smaller, “everybody knew everybody.”

“It's been a mixture of new people, and not so much your old diehard clientele who are still there (but) times are changing,” says Tomshak.

The world around the barber shop is undoubtedly different; a photo of the view from the bay windows sits on a shelf; it shows a grocery store where a steakhouse now sits.

Rosadiuk noted it was the first grocery store in Grande Prairie to have a door that ‘opened by itself.'

A police car, sirens blaring, drives through the intersection of 100 Ave. and 100 St. in front of the building; Tomshak notes “there are more sirens than ever before.” 

These windows have been the eyes of downtown Grande Prairie for years and the world outside moves on faster and faster. But many things remain the same inside the barber shop, it’s like a living time capsule. 

Imperial Bank and Spencer Block, ca. 1920 (SPRA 460.55)

The building the barbershop is attached to, according to Rosadiuk, is the second oldest in the city.

In 1914, it was built to house the Imperial Bank of Canada; upstairs was a residence for the bank manager. The current parking lot was once a garden for the manager.

Through the years, the building would go on to house dentists and retail stores.

Military parade on Richmond Ave., ca. 1940 (SPRA 2003.14.10)

Sometime in the 1950s, an addition was added to the north side of the building to accommodate offices for an optometrist and realtors. 

Eventually, it became the home of barbers, said Rosadiuk.

Cal “Bud” LaCroix would open up the first barbershop at the location in 1967 under the name Cal’s Barber Shop. 

Daughter Bev Gascon remembers her father keeping the place in pristine condition.

“He was meticulous, so every person got a new white towel,” said Gascon, noting she was in high school when she helped her father at the shop. 

“I just remember on Sundays, we had to launder those towels and fold them, and that was my job.” She said the rest of the day was spent cleaning everything else in the shop, including floors. 

LaCroix would become ill and sell the shop to Lewis “Lou” Lattery in 1974.

Rosadiuk began working for Lattery and would eventually buy the shop from him. 

The building barely shows its age; Rosadiuk and Tomshak say it's been kept up very well. 

“It’s overbuilt being a bank building,” said Rosadiuk. 

He noted that the original building has a pine pitch roof and hasn’t needed to be replaced since it was built. 

Tomshak said she wants to keep the building the same and says she can’t imagine working anywhere else.

“If I probably would have to go working in one those places, like a bigger shop or something, I would not like it,” she said. 

“I might change my career because this is my home away from home.”

Heather Tomshak stops for a portrait at her chair at Central Barber Shop. The barber shop has occupied the building since 1967. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

Residents' memories

Colin Harrison remembers heading to Central Barber Shop.

“Always waited for Dick to cut my hair, best part was having my head vacuumed after he was finished cutting,” he said. 

The famous head vacuum at Central Barber Shop. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

Dan Gunther remembers heading to the shop as a child where Rosadiuk would cut his hair. 

Tom Pura said he would frequent the shop “when he had more hair” but has fond memories of going. 

“Dick was a nice guy, and we always had some great conversations,” said Pura.

Karen Kish remembers tagging along with her brother. 

“My brother Ken was getting his regular brushcuts; usually, if the hair cutter wasn’t busy, he'd trim my bangs; much better job than my mother did,” said Kish.

(Photo by Jesse Boily)