OWOSSO, MI—There was a line of people waiting to get into Karl Manke’s barbershop on Tuesday.
The 77-year-old barber, who has cut hair in town for 60 years, opened Karl Manke’s Barbershop on Monday in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order mandating salons, barbershops and other businesses to stay closed.
“I don’t need the governor to be my mother,” he said. “I have one. God bless her, she’s gone now. I don’t need another mother. I can make these adult decisions myself.”
The barber expected to work another 14-hour day Tuesday. He said he worked from 10 a.m. to midnight Monday.
Polka music plays inside the barbershop as Manke cuts hair. A “best barber” award from a local newspaper hangs on the shop’s wall. Manke is also a writer. All eight of his books are on display in the barbershop, novels with titles like “Gone to Pot,” “The Adventures of Railcar Rogues” and his latest, “Harsen’s Island Revenge.”
The youngest person in his chair Tuesday was 19 years old and his oldest client was 90. People drove from Saginaw, Milford and Lansing to show Manke’s barbershop support.
Kathy Tran drove to Manke’s shop from Milford after seeing a Facebook post saying he was open.
“We came out here to support him,” Tran said. “Our main goal is to support the community and small businesses. I feel like every business should be open and they can do it safely.”
Manke said he couldn’t afford to stay closed. The demand for haircuts is high and he said he could not wait for the shutdown to be lifted.
“I can … run my business how I feel I should run it,” Manke said. “To tell you the truth, I am scared but I didn’t really have any choice. I need to work through that fear and open up.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/v_AiZ3rEvSc?feature=oembed
Manke is worried he may be arrested, fined or have his barber’s license taken away.
Ryan Jarvi, from the Attorney General’s office, said there is no basis for the barbershop to be open under the current executive order, but could not confirm whether someone has contacted Mankee. Those who violate the order are subject to a 90-day misdemeanor and/or a $500 fine.
“Violations should still be directed to law enforcement agencies overseeing the jurisdiction in which the offense occurred,” Jarvi said. “We are confident those agencies will use their discretion and authority appropriately in enforcing the Governor’s orders.”
The Owosso Police Department was made aware of the situation on Monday, May 4, officials said Wednesday. Police say they have investigated the matter and submitted a report to the Shiawassee County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.
Manke says he will continue to operate in the meantime.
“I’ll be open until Jesus walks in or until they arrest me,” Manke said.
The barber says he does not have a choice but to work. He has had trouble enrolling for unemployment and getting his stimulus check. He has used all his credit.
“I can’t go that long without an income, I just can’t do it,” Manke said.
Manke believes he is responsible enough to determine what is needed to protect his clientele and that they have the right to determine whether they are comfortable with coming in for a haircut.
The shop’s chairs, doorknobs and bathrooms are sanitized, he says. Manke wears a mask and sanitizes his hands between cuts.
All Manke’s scissors, clippers, combs and razors are sanitized with a UV light, safety precautions Manke has been practicing for 60 years.
Manke said the building housing his shop is big enough to adhere to seating people six feet apart.
“I feel like a pawn in between a bunch of politicians,” Manke said. “This is something that’s going to be with us for a while. We have to live with it.”