MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Like the chairs of his barbershop, Tom Olsen is a fixture in the northeast Minneapolis neighborhood.
“Everybody you talk to, if you say Tom the barber, everybody knows who you’re talking about,” said Tom’s wife, Colleen Olsen.
Customers like Scott Andring have been coming to Tom’s barbershop since they were just children.
“I have a recollection going back to 1975 anyway, but it’s been a long time,” Andring said.
Olsen has been a barber for generations of families, even rebuilding on the same block after a devastating 2005 fire destroyed everything.
But what fire didn’t stop, cancer will. Sadly, Tom’s scissors are now silent. Colleen says his cancer fight of eight years ago is back, only this time the esophageal cancer is terminal. Tom has entered hospice care.
“We don’t know, every day we don’t know what to expect,” Colleen said. “So now we take each day, one day at a time.”
Olsen began cutting hair at another barber shop near Lowry and Central at the tender age of 19. He entered the U.S. Army where he worked on nuclear warheads in Europe. When he returned home, the barber he was working for offered Tom the chance to buy the business.
“After this many years, they’re not clients anymore – they’re friends and family,” Colleen said.
The client base kept growing through the years as both Tom and Colleen shared the barber and styling business.
“Being a barber, servicing people has just been his passion,” Colleen said.
After word began spreading about Tom’s cancer fight, customers decided they had to do something for their friend. On Saturday, they will hold a benefit to help with living and medical expenses for Tom and Colleen Olsen.
The event will be a spaghetti dinner along with a silent auction and door prizes at the local Moose Bar and Grill on Monroe Street.
“For them to rally behind him and for what Tom and Colleen are going through right now, it just shows you how tight of a community he’s been and now they can help him back,” Andring said.
Tom’s love of community and outdoors is matched only by the care he has shown customers in a neighborhood barber shop that will never be the same.
“He’s just a northeast person,” Colleen said.
Tom’s benefit will run from 6 – 9 p.m.