Duo Keep Jerry’s Barbershop Open After Loss

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Duo Keep Jerry’s Barbershop Open After Loss

By Sean Lee

It in no way diminishes its importance to say the small barbershop in the UND Memorial Union is the kind of place many could walk by and never stop to notice. That's not because it's unimportant. Rather, Jerry’s Barber Shop, tucked away between the parking office and Terrace Dining Center at University of North Dakota Memorial Union fits so neatly into the campus community that to pay it special attention is to see the seams in the very fabric from which the University is woven.

The shop is inviting and often buzzing with activity during the lunch hour. The moment one enters the relatively small space with a pair of barber’s chairs along a walled mirror, opposite a large-screen television, the shop speaks to the “old style” charm one might associate with their neighborhood barbershop.

And, like those neighborhood barbershops, there's no pretense--no sense that anyone is unwelcome. It’s not uncommon for a college student with a full head of hair to occupy one chair, while a 50-something professor occupies the other.

As a true barbershop, patrons often stop by just to say hello, regardless on their hairlines. “It’s a part of the University’s history,” said Jim Jeromebeck, a regular at Jerry’s, which has been in business for more than 50 years.

Jim often comes for conversation during his time off, stopping by to catch up to the latest news and gossip from around the University.

Sisters-in-law, Sara and Marie Jorgenson, have been working for Jerry for over nine years combined. “People love it here,” Sara Jorgenson said. “Once people discover the shop, they become regulars.”

The Jorgensons worked under Jerry, who “literally knew everyone” at the University. The team watched as the University grew through the years from their small basement shop.

Students who had their hair cut by Jerry would often return as alumni and receive the same treatment they had from years past. Jerry, by virtue of his honest dealing and personal connections to his customers as much as his longevity, was an institution. A building goes up, another comes down, the faces of the people across campus change, and suddenly the world is a little less recognizable. But, for Jerry's customers, for half a century, one face remained the same.

Then, Gerald “Jerry” Pokrzywinski passed away last March to a stunned University community.

“It was a tough loss,” said Marie Jorgenson.

Still, Jerry’s customers have still remained loyal. “We want to keep the barber’s tradition alive,” said Marie Jorgenson. “There is only a hand full of barbershops in Grand Forks ... It would be a shame for us to shut down.”

Nearly a month after his death, the Jorgensons have made the decision to stay open and continue to serve the University. “We want to show how important this place is,” Sara Jorgenson said.

The pair will have to re-bid for the retail space in the Union, bringing up other concerns and the threat of a shutdown. “Jerry never wanted this place to close,” Marie Jorgenson said. “He kept it going for as long as he could. We said he was ‘semi-retired’ because he made this shop his home away from home.”

Though the future is uncertain, Marie and Sara remain optimistic. “Our customers don’t want to go anywhere else so we’ll be here to serve them,” Sara said.

Stopping by the Campus Barber Shop these days is a little different for the folks that knew Jerry. Fortunately, his influence is still felt and there are still a couple folks happy to tell you all about him.

Jerry’s Campus Barber Shop is open daily and is located on the basement level of the Memorial Union. Contact Sarah or Marie at (707) 777-2554.

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