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Hampton barber still 'knows what to do' after 55 years

| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:06 p.m.
Deborah Deasy | Trib Total Media
Win Mahle, 73, has been a barber for 54 years.
Deborah Deasy | Trib Total Media
Win Mahle, 73, has been a barber for 54 years.
DDeborah Deasy | Trib Total Media
Win Mahle, 73, has been a barber for 54 years. He trims the hair of longtime customer Jim Cain, 71.
Deborah Deasy | Trib Total Media
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More than 90 people attended a party on July 17 at Hampton Community Library with Pittsburgh Power arena football team members Virgil Gray, left, and Roosevelt Holliday. Hampton Community Library won the party for circulating more children's materials than any other library in northern Allegheny County. The Pittsburgh Power football team and Kings Restaurant co-sponsored the party in cooperation with the Allegheny County Library Association.

After a half-century of cutting men's hair, Win Mahle can't say why he became a barber.

“I'm still trying to figure out what the future is … other than working long days and not making a lot of money,” said Mahle, 73, the wry, soft-spoken and easy-going owner of Win's Barber Shop in Bardonner Square on Route 8 in Hampton.

A 1959 graduate of Richland High School, Mahle first worked as a teenager in a gas station near Tom Henry Chevrolet in the Bakerstown section of Richland.

“Something made me decide to go to barber school. I don't know what it was,” said Mahle, a graduate of the former Pittsburgh Barber School on the North Side of Pittsburgh.

“I'm working here until a good fast food job opens,” reads a sign behind the counter at Win's Barber Shop, where a haircut still costs $15.

Now “semi-retired” on a four-day work week, Mahle will begin his 55th year of cutting hair and trimming beards in September.

“The majority of my customers don't know what they want,” he said “They leave it up to me.”

Mahle still claims more than 200 regular customers.

“I just like the way he cuts hair,” said Jerry Haas, 78, of West Deer. “He just knows what to do.”

Haas, who has a summer home in Montana, snapped the photo of a grizzly bear that hangs on one wall of Win's Barber Shop. Framed photos of classic cars and vintage trucks — some owned by Mahle's customers — also decorate the shop's walls, along with a photo of the Beatles, circa 1964.

Oldies also accompany every hair cut, because Mahle keeps his shop's radio tuned to WJAS 1320.

“I'm probably known for being the gentlest barber around,” Mahle said when asked why his customers keep coming.

Jim Cain, 71, of Hampton, stops in every two weeks for a touch-up on his flattop.

“He has a nice group of people going in there. … It's fun,” Cain said about Mahle's barber shop. “You get to know the regulars.

“There's a guy that comes all the way from Greensburg,” Cain said. “He has one of the old-style haircuts. It's flat on top, but the sides are long, and it goes back… a duck tail or something like that?

Cain, a metal fabricator, first visited Win's Barber Shop more than 30 years ago with his two young sons.

“I can remember whenever he would cut kids' hair,” Cain said. “He'd use a normal chair. But he would put a board across the arm rests, and set the kid on there. Most of the time, the kids were really good.”

Mahle, son of the late Ira and Florence Mahle, has three children.

Named after his father, Win Mahle actually is Ira Winfield Mahle Jr.

“Very few kids I went to school with knew that my real name was Ira,” said Mahle, who proudly displays his dad's photo in his barber shop.

His father's photo appears in a framed copy of an old newspaper ad for the former Harmony Short Line. The ad features photos of the bus line's most experienced and safest drivers, including Ira W. Mahle Sr.

Mahle Jr,, a fan of sprint cars and dirt tracks, used to make the trophies presented to victors of races at one of his favorite hangouts: Lernerville Speedway in Butler County.

Why doesn't he retire after 54 years as a barber?

“The main thing is that I forgot to save my money when I was young,” Mahle said. “I don't mind working, but if I'd win the big lottery, I would quit immediately.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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