Around 5 p.m. Saturday, Steve Boldizar flipped the sign hanging in the window of Capital Barbershop from “closed” to “open.”
For his 57 years of business, Boldizar has displayed the “closed” to indicate that he’s open. On Saturday, he gave his last haircut to Peter Stickney, 90, and flipped the sign for the last time.
“I’ve had a lot more fun than most of them,” Boldizar said. “Everyone has a good time here.”
Longtime customers trickled in and out of Capital Barber Shop at 216 W. Main to say hi, get their hair cut or drop off gifts for Boldizar on his last day.
“Where am I going to go?” said Bob Terrazas, a customer who has been seeing Boldizar for 20 years.
“I don’t know, where are you going to go?” Boldizar joked.
Boldizar started building a loyal customer base when he started cutting hair in Missoula in 1963. He opened his own shop in 1968 and named it after its location in the Capital Building across the alley from the Rhino bar. He moved to his current location in 1985 and after 33 years in the building, he’s moving out to make way for the new headquarters of the Zootown Arts Community Center. The nonprofit bought the Studebaker building with plans to remodel.
Boldizar’s customers came to see him for a haircut just as much as they came to hear his stories, which often relate back to memorabilia crowding the shop.
He recounted a filmmaker from Alabama who visited him, a Griz football player who went on to play pros who used to pick Boldizar up high enough to hit his head on the ceiling, a German boy who believed that Boldizar knew his family, a man who gave him a parking meter, a locksmith who offered to unlock the out-of-date meter, and another man who put a stand and wheels on the meter.
The walls are covered by dozens of pennants from various teams, including one for the Washington Nationals that Terrazas brought back from a visit.
Boldizar said the collection started with a 1968 Detroit Tigers pennant, which he said will be the last to come down as he packs up.
“Everything you hear in here is for real and I wouldn’t want to write a book because no one would believe it,” Boldizar said.
Boldizar came to Missoula in 1959 after serving in the U.S. Air Force. Soon after, he thought about cutting hair.
“My dad was a tailor and he always said ‘A tailor and a shoemaker will never get rich but they won’t starve. Of course, if you’re a tailor, you have to leave your pants. If you’re a shoe repairman, you have to leave your shoes, but if you’re a barber, you can’t leave your head.”
Boldizar, 83, said he doesn’t feel quite ready to retire. He has to be packed and out of the building by April 1 but he said he’s not sure what will come after that.
“I’m going to put some feelers out,” Boldizar said. “I don’t know if I’ll land anywhere but I’ve got to do things the way I want to do them. I want to be in a shop where it’s just me.”
Boldizar doesn’t like working in a shop with other barbers or customers who could overhear his conversations. It’s important to him — and his customers — to have an environment where they can talk about anything without worrying about how their conversations might be relayed. He doesn’t even really like people knowing who he works with, which is why he keeps the blinds pulled down during the day.
Boldizar said he would be open to working with someone who owns a shop if he’s able to run it on his own for a couple days each week. He said he hopes to know where he’s heading within the next couple of months.
In the meantime, he’s working on clearing out his belongings in the shop and said he’s selling some for hard-to-beat “propaganda prices.” Other items, like the pennants are going home with customers, along with years of stories.