ENID, Okla. — They say a person’s barber usually knows their entire life’s story. Rarely, however, does anyone ever know their barber’s story.
Dave Hempfling has been a barber for 50 years in Enid as owner and operator of Dave’s Barber Shop and plans to retire this month. Hempfling first felt the call to his profession when he was only 10 years old working as a shoe shiner for a barber named Leo in his hometown of Perry.
“He was a great man; he was the type of guy that never criticized people,” he said. “And I wanted to be like him.”
Hempfling asked Leo if he would give him a job if he became a barber. Leo not only said yes, but offered to let him fill the open position at his shop once he completed barber school.
“I finally went to barber school when I got to high school,” he said. “I finished up there and moved back to Perry and was fixing to go to work for Leo when I got drafted to join the Navy and was sent to Vietnam.”
Hempfling spent a year in Vietnam but never forgot about his dream. When he returned from war, he came home to find Leo and his open barber chair waiting for him.
“I knew at a very early age that that was what I wanted to do,” he said.
A greater purpose
Shortly after beginning his career, Hempfling’s father moved to Enid for a job as a TV repairman. Before long, Hempfling decided perhaps he would move to Enid as well to begin a fresh start in his career as a barber.
“It was tough cutting hair in your hometown,” he said. “Everyone wanted an older barber, not a younger barber cutting their hair.”
Hempfling packed up and moved to Enid in 1970, where he got job cutting hair for a man named Ed Greven.
“Ed gave me my first in Enid, and I worked with him for about 20 years,” he said. “Then I worked at the Sunset Plaza Barber Shop for Paul Rogers for four years.”
In 1994, Hempfling decided to open up his own barber shop, in the exact location where Greven had begun his own career cutting hair. Although Hempfling was going into business for himself, he opening the shop with a very special mission dedicated to a greater purpose.
“I became a Christian when I was about 35 years old, and I decided that when I put my barber shop in that I was going to dedicate to the Lord,” he said.
Being a barber allowed him to get to know several people over the years, Hempfling said, which gave him an opportunity to talk about the Lord.
“I’ve been able to pray with people; business people have dropped in asking if I had time to pray with them,” he said.
His faith played a big part in his success as a barber he said, and has been grateful for the chance to share it with others.
“It’s very important to me to that I share that with people, that I am a Christian,” he said. “Things here that have happened over the years with my business being so good and the people that I have dealt with over the years, I really give God the credit for that.”
Over the years Hempfling has participated in mission trips to Peru through First Assembly of God, where he and his wife are members. Through the church’s help, Hempfling said more than 70 churches have been built in Peru.
“That’s another thing that has been very important to me,” he said. “We can go all over this world, and there is always somebody who needs help.”
The final cut
After 52 years, Hempfling said he is ready to add a second purpose to his life. On Wednesday, Hempfling will retire as a barber and move with his wife to the town of Mustang to be near his grandchildren.
“We have children in Oklahoma City and we have two children that live in Moore, and four grandsons that play in sports down there,” he said. “And they’ve always wanted Grandma and Grandpa to come and watch them play.”
Although he is looking forward to this new chapter in his life, Hempfling said he is going to miss Enid, and all the people he has met here.
“A lot of my customers were more than just customers, they were my friends,” he said.
During his time in Enid, Hempfling has been the barber for five generations of some families in town.
“Through the years, I’ve gotten to see a lot of different things happen,” he said. “People that have businesses now have grown up here in Enid that I gave them their first haircuts.”
Hempfling said he will miss his church and his customers the most when he leaves, and has found it hard to say goodbye to them all. Despite the difficulty, Hempfling is ready to begin this new chapter in his life, and to see what opportunities await him in Mustang. For now, he will continue to enjoy the last days of his career with a snip, a clip and a brush for extra measure.