NORTH MANKATO — For decades, the bucolic, unchanging atmosphere of Mutch Hardware provided the informal gathering spot for North Mankato guys to shoot the breeze.
Ellen Koenigs hopes to resurrect some of that atmosphere in the same Belgrade Avenue building when she opens Y Barbers along with a styling salon and hair replacement business. The Y Barbers shop in Mankato Place will close.
"There's a revival of barber shops. There's not that many people going into barbering anymore. You can't replace that atmosphere when guys come in and have the handshake and joke around and talk politics," Koenigs said.
"That was really a base for communities. We don't have those places so much for guys."
To highlight the guy hangout atmosphere, the new Y Barbers will include a pool table.
But Koenigs also is taking the opportunity to move into the larger space on Belgrade Avenue to create a separate section in the building for a contemporary hair salon for women and families.
And she will open a hair replacement business, Onatah on Belgrade, in the back space of the building.
"We do hair replacement for cancer patients or anyone with hair loss. We'll also bring organic hair care with that." Services include wigs, hair integration for thinning hair, human- and synthetic-bonded hair systems and other hair replacements.
Koenigs picked "Onatah," an Iroquois word for "of the earth" to fit the organic hair care services they focus on.
That hair replacement business has operated as BK Studio Hair Replacement inside the Y Barbers current location in the downtown Mankato Place.
The BK stands for Bernie Koenigs, Ellen's dad, whom she bought the barbershop from earlier this year and who still works part time.
He bought the historic Y Barbers in the 1970s after working there for years. The Y name came from the fact the original barber shop opened in 1904 in the old YMCA building that was on Cherry and Second streets, next to the downtown post office.