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Where JBLM goes for a haircut: Beacon Barber Shop

Art Mindas is living his dream from his Lakewood barber chair

Art Mindas is living his dream at the Beacon Barber Shop in Lakewood. Photo credit: Gail Wood

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Since 2000, Art Mindas has been living his childhood dream.

He's been a barber, cutting hair and sharing stories.

"This is what I've wanted to do all my life," Mindas said. "I love it. I really am living my dream."

Growing up in a small town in Indiana, Mindas can still conjure up images of being in his hometown barbershop. He tried to recreate that same friendly, homey feeling in his shop in Lakewood. His barbershop walls are covered with pictures and memorabilia, gifts from friends.

In one corner, soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have hung their unit patches.

After serving three years in the Navy and 20 in the Coast Guard, Mindas named his shop the Beacon Barber Shop. It fits his motto of being everyone's port of rest.

"When I saw a lighthouse, especially after a treacherous trip, I was always glad to see land," Mindas said. "You're always happy to see land."

For many soldiers at JBLM, from privates to sergeants to generals, the Beacon Barber Shop has become a place to get a haircut and a friendly welcome.

"He's just a friendly guy," said Don Elmore, who has gone to Mindas' barbershop for 10 years. "It's the best haircut I've ever had in my life."

As a thank you for a job well done, Elmore, who turned 71 last week, presented Mindas a miniature lighthouse on Tuesday.     

"He really does an outstanding job," Elmore said. "We always talk about music."

That's no surprise. Mindas, a long-time karaoke crooner, has won two contests for Elvis Presley imitation contests.

Walking into Mindas' barbershop is like stepping back in time. He has a jukebox and albums from the '50s to the '60s. On the counter, behind his only barber chair, is a 1941 cash register. It has that old familiar ring of yesterday.

"My barber in my hometown was always sweeping his shop," Mindas said. "It was immaculate."

Mindas remembered seeing his barber, "Mikey," sitting in his barber chair either reading the newspaper, watching TV or napping.

"I thought I could do that," Mindas said.

After graduating from high school in 1973, Mindas joined the Navy. He cut hair while in the Navy. In the Coast Guard, he was a cook. On his first assignment after boot camp, Mindas picked up a nickname that stuck. After a few days at sea, Mindas heard his name over the loudspeaker for a random locker check.

"I had just come out of boot camp," Mindas said. "I was so nervous."

After three failed attempts to open his combination, the chief officer said, "Move aside." They were going to use bolt cutters to open his locker. Mindas pleaded for one more chance. When he finally opened his locker, it was packed with chocolate chip cookies.

"I knew I was going on a three month deployment so I bought a whole case of chocolate chip cookies," Mindas said with a chuckle. "They were my favorite."

The chief called Mindas "Cookie." And the nickname stuck.

For 14 years, Mindas, who takes appointments and drop-ins, has cut the hair of citizens and soldiers. He's been everyone's friend. But once, he got into an argument. A retired general, with his "don't you know who I am" ego, provoked Mindas.

"I blew up in his face," Mindas said. "I said listen buddy you're retired. I'm retired. We're the same. That's history."

It was a scolding the general needed.

"He needed someone to put him in his spot," Mindas said. "He respects me more now. And he still comes and gets his haircut."

Of course, who wouldn't want their haircut at the Beacon Barber Shop?

The Beacon Barber Shop is at 6147 Steilacoom Blvd. SW in Lakewood. Make an appointment at 253.582.4525.

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