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No more stops at Whistle Stop Barbershop

Joyce Horner smiles at the Carlsborg “depot” that her barbershop customers built for her in 2000. She’s moving to California this weekend.  - Sequim Gazette photo by Patricia Morrison Coate
Joyce Horner smiles at the Carlsborg “depot” that her barbershop customers built for her in 2000. She’s moving to California this weekend.
— image credit: Sequim Gazette photo by Patricia Morrison Coate

After 16 years at the Whistle Stop Barber Shop and probably thousands of haircuts, Joyce Horner is putting down her shears, maybe not forever, but for the time being, and pulling up her roots to move to Vallejo, Calif., to be with her daughter and son-in-law because of health problems.

She’s excited to retire — she’s been working since she was 9 years old — but saddened to leave what she calls “my guys.”

The gregarious and spunky 73-year-old opened the barbershop in her home in 1998 and it’s become a mecca for all matter of railroad memorabilia.

“I used to cut hair for a hobby and I found I had a knack for it in California where I lived for 30 years,” Horner said.

After moving to Sequim 27 years ago and working odd jobs, Horner decided it was time to turn her hobby into a profession, graduating from the Bates Barber School in Tacoma after seven months of training. At her first shop in Manette, she displayed a toy train set in the window and soon a flood of railroad-related items were bestowed on her by her customers. The collection followed her to

Sequim and increased tenfold to include photos and posters of trains, toy trains, authentic red lanterns, all kinds of train whistles and hats, clocks, jackets and T-shirts displayed all around the shop. She even had railroad wallpaper and a train whistle ring tone on her phone. But all of that went away on Saturday, June 14, at a sale of the collection and the thought brought tears to her eyes three days before it.

“It’s been really fun but it will be sad to see it go,” Horner said last Wednesday. “I asked God to keep me from crying. The guys come every six weeks and I’ve gotten to know them like family. My heart is breaking.”

When she first opened in Sequim, Horner had a roster of about 600 clients, doing the old haircuts like crewcuts and flat tops plus basic tapered cuts and shaves. After waiting fours years for knee replacement surgery and working 10 hours a day on a bad knee, Horner realized she was overwhelmed and needed to slow down. For the past few years she’s trimmed it down to a pool of 200-300 clients.

“My customers all trust me and know they’ll get a consistently good haircut. They don’t have to worry about being lopsided!” she quipped.

“The best part has been just getting to know my guys because they are ‘my guys,’ hearing their stories from a rocket scientist to a garbage collector and every thing in between,” Horner said. “Everybody has a story and I love the stories because I get to know people very well — that to me is the best part. Cutting hair, I get into a routine on how they like their hair cut, so I can focus on the stories.”

Every working day there’s been good-natured bantering between Horner and her guys and she admits to teasing them a bit and none of them taking anything seriously.

“God has been very good to me and because of God I am where I am today,” Horner said with some emotion. “He opened up a lot of doors for me and I give him all the praise and glory.”

To her customers, she says, “I’m gonna miss you guys — I’m trying very hard not to cry,” while tears formed. “They all have been so good to me and I just appreciate every single one and I appreciate all their business. I just love every single one of them and I wouldn’t trade the past 16 years for anything.”

Horner has sold her house and the Whistle Stop Barbershop will be no more. She moves to California on June 20.

 

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