Hudson more than just a barber to his community

Longtime Dupo barber Dean Hudson combs back his friend Ralph Ochs’ hair. (Sean McGowan photo)

Longtime Dupo barber Dean Hudson combs back his friend Ralph Ochs’ hair. (Sean McGowan photo)

Dean Hudson of Dupo picked up his first pair of hair shears 53 years ago and hasn’t looked back since.

“There’s the old adage that if you don’t like what you do, get out,” he said. “That’s why I’ve stayed with this for so long, because I do enjoy it.”

For the first nine years of his career, Hudson worked at two different barber shops in East St. Louis and at a shop in Dupo. He would then come to own a shop in Dupo in 1972.

“I’ve never been without a job,” Hudson said. “Most people can’t say that.”

After decades of business, Dean’s Barber Shop at 119 Lindemann Avenue is as much a part of the area as the people living there. Hudson announced in the first week of July that he was celebrating 53 years as a barber.

For more information about Hudson’s shop, call 286-3711. Business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

His announcement received a great showing of support, and came as he celebrated 44 years owning Dean’s Barber Shop — the longest-running business in Dupo. Hudson showcases community pride in his shop through an array of railroad collectibles.

“I have a lot of railroad memorabilia in my shop because it’s a train community,” he said. “If I was near a boat shop, I would probably have a lot of boating stuff. People come in and see this, and it’s a part of the experience.”

Ralph Ochs of Dupo agrees that the shop’s theme draws in the locals, as he himself regularly stops in to chat.

“I like to come in here and talk about the railroad because I’m a railroad guy,” Ochs said.

He and Hudson are also good friends and have been for the past 20 years since Ochs moved to Dupo.

“He’s the best,” Ochs said. “This place is important to the community.”

However, the space Hudson uses for his barbershop served  as a local staple since before his time. The first barbershop opened there in 1922.

“I’m the fourth barber to be in the shop,” he said. “There’s always been a barber in here.”

Without a doubt, Hudson continues to make his mark on the area — through making friends from people coming into his shop and also through his donations to various institutions including to a special needs program in the Dupo school district.

“I’m involved with the community,” Hudson said.

The fact Hudson means so much to Dupo carries challenges for him and his business — a truth he takes notice of, even though he loves to cut hair.

“It’s not an easy business,” he said. “You have to be here most of the time and be faithful to the customer. Some people can leave their business without any issue. If I’m not here one day, they think the world is ending.”

Ironically, Hudson reached a level of notoriety where he can travel out of the state and still get spotted.

“Everywhere I go, someone knows me,” he said. “I was in Florida and a guy hollered at me on the beach. He said, ‘I saw you from all the way over there.’ I’m a big guy, so I can understand that.”

Hudson will soon throw in the towel, but said he has a few good years left in him. As he gets closer to retirement, changes in the business continue to manifest themselves that make clear the age of the barber has all but faded away.

“The older generation are faithful, but they’re dying off,” he said of his customers. “The younger generation are not so faithful. They hear about this other place and go running over to there. Young people don’t know loyalty.”

Not only is the younger crowd moving toward hair salons and corporate institutions, but barbers are also moving away from the traditional practices of running such a shop. One such practice involves the full face shave.

“We stopped doing that a little while ago,” Hudson said. “Now, all the guys are wanting the hot towels, which I understand. It feels nice. I chalk it up as another passing fad, though.”

Yet, whenever Hudson does decide to retire, he can hold his head up knowing he carried out a successful and enduring career.

“Most of the guys I went to barber college with didn’t make it more than five or six years,” he said. “There are good days and bad days, and they didn’t like that instability.

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