Local barber says serving clientele is a 'total joy'

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Berna Kunze cuts Ron Heidt's hair Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in her downtown Jamestown barber shop. John M. Steiner / The Sun

It wasn't something Berna Kunze ever planned on doing but 50 years later she doesn't want to do anything else.

Kunze, the owner and sole employee of Berna's Barber Shop in Jamestown, has been snipping the scissors, shaving with a straight-edge razor and building relationships with clientele since 1970.

"It wasn't something that I thought, as a younger person, 'oh this is something I want to do,'" Kunze said with a laugh. "I had never even thought about it honest to goodness. In fact, when I was a kid I hated haircuts."

Prior to picking up the scissors, Kunze worked as a certified nursing assistant at St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck. It was after she broke her leg and was recovering at her childhood home in McClusky, North Dakota, that the prospect of barbering for a living entered Kunze's mind.

"When I started getting better and walking I walked uptown and met this young man," Kunze said. "He was doing his apprenticeship as a barber in my hometown and he's the one that talked me into it. I was ready to go back to Bismarck and he said 'I think you need to go to Fargo to the barber college and check it out, Berna.' I did and I fell in love with it."


Kunze was the third female barber to take up the scissors in the state of North Dakota. She attended Moler Barber College in Fargo after which time she apprenticed under a master barber for two years. After her apprenticeship, Kunze took the state boards and became a master barber.

Kunze began barbering professionally in the '60s under Hank and Vi Tahran, longtime owners of Tahran's Barber Shop in Jamestown. When the couple retired in 1970 after 50 years of business, Kunze took over and Berna's Barber Shop was born. Kunze's shop has been located on the main floor of 218 1st Ave. S since 1982.

"It's been a blessing," Kunze said of her profession. "I have been blessed to have the most wonderful men come to the shop. Many families are on the third generation ... I've got grandpa, their son and their sons coming. It's been a total joy."

One of those faithful clients has been sitting in the chair ever since Kunze began wielding her scissors.

"I was going to her in the''60s," said Loren Schulz. "She's just so knowledgeable. She's just a pleasant person to visit with. I've been to barbers once in a while where you just about have to stomp on them to get a word out of them. If she was having a bad day you would never know because she's so upbeat all of the time."

A profession in the barbing industry was not part of her original life plan but Kunze said she is grateful for what it has taught and brought her the past five decades.

"It's a wonderful profession," Kunze said. "Of course every individual is different so it is really an art of cutting hair. It's a good profession to go into, I have been so blessed to have found something that I love to do. It's never been that I had to go to work and I didn't want to - I couldn't wait to go to work every morning and it's still that way after 50 years."


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Berna Kunze, long-time barber in downtown Jamestown, still uses a straight-edge razor for shaving clients. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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