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Spanish Fork barber retires after 45 years in business

By Harrison Epstein - | May 2, 2022
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Brad Grover poses for a portrait while sitting in his chair in Brad's Barbershop in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
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Brad Grover is reflected in the mirror of Brad's Barbershop while cutting Danny DeGraw's hair on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
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Brad's Barbershop sits on Main Street in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
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Jesse Grover, far left, cuts Rory Sargent's hair while Brad Grover cuts the hair of Danny DeGraw in Brad's Barbershop in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
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Brad Grover cuts the hair of Danny DeGraw in Brad's Barbershop in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. DeGraw, his father and grandfather were all clients of Grover through the decades.

Plenty has changed over the years in Spanish Fork. The city has gotten busier and busier with new businesses coming in and out as the population has grown. Around all the change, though, was one reliable face. For 45 years, Brad Grover has been the confidante, therapist, friend and barber on Main Street.

While Brad’s Barbershop is sticking around, Grover packed away his cape and clippers Saturday as he began his retirement.

As much as he loves being in the barbershop, there are still things Grover wanted to do and feels now is the right time to retire.

“I can still walk and get around and enjoy life a little bit and just do things with the family –maybe go on a mission, probably — and I want to have my legs where I can do that sort of thing,” he said.

While he has the time to decide on missions and how to spend the coming years with family, Grover’s summer is already jam-packed. He’ll be jumping into retirement with vacations to Tahiti and Hawaii, a family reunion, a wedding, camping at Payson Lakes and time in Idaho Falls all in the coming summer.

There’s plenty to come in Grover’s future, but he’s taken time to reflect on this past and on the journey that brought him to today.

When Grover decided to go to barber school, he originally wanted to stay near his childhood home in Dubois, Idaho, by going to Boise. After learning it would be a year, at least, before he could attend, his own barber recommended moving to Salt Lake City and enrolling in the technical school.

A short drive down Redwood Road led to a three-month wait before enrolling. Only 18 months after that first drive, he was a fully trained barber and headed north back to Dubois. He opened his own shop there, cutting on Mondays and commuting 50 miles the rest of the week to work in Idaho Falls.

Eventually, he got a job in Orem and lived with his brother in Brigham Young University off-campus housing. From there it was a short journey to his next job, cutting hair at BYU. He was there another nine years and helped open up the first barber shop at the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

That’s where he was when he was offered to come down to Spanish Fork. “I hem-hawed around and decided not to do it, then he called me and asked me again a year later and so I did,” Grover said. “I decided, well, I’m not getting any younger.”

For the first year, he paid $300 a month in rent. After that, Grover was given a chance to buy the location. Rather than let the spot get “sold out from under” him, Grover made the leap and began paying $1,000 a month for the next 15 years. “I never thought I’d ever see daylight.”

The first of every month, he would go down to Nephi as well to cut hair at the retirement facility. He bought a second shop and manned it on Mondays while other professionals were there the rest of the week.

Standing in the barbershop on Tuesday, cutting the hair of a long-time patron, Grover became emotional. “This gentleman here, I’ve seen his face in here many a times and it’s people like this … (who) make it special,” he choked out, clippers still whirring in the air.

Every client sitting in the chair was special, and Grover made sure everyone knew how much they mattered. He was a counselor to people going through hard times in their lives, suffering from depression or the loss of a loved one, and those simply looking for a path. He’s recommended becoming a barber a time or two, but always with a friendly warning.

“If you’re looking to make a lot of money, you need to look elsewhere. … It’ll make you a living, but you’re not going to get rich by it,” he said. “The other part is, you’ll enjoy it the rest of your life. Money isn’t everything.”

In his time, he’s seen Spanish Fork grow from a population just under 10,000 — according to the 1980 U.S. census — to over 42,000 people. He’s watched from the window as Main Street became the center of the city that’s now the fourth-largest in Utah County.

Even with all the growth and changes, Grover kept cutting hair and being himself. For years, he would cut at both the boys ranch and the Utah County Jail — something he did for 20 years until early 2022.

Still, it won’t be the same experience. He’s had customers become friends, people he shares memories with, and at the same time, would have people enter his shop for the first time, decades after setting up in town. Looking back, Grover is grateful for every opportunity he’s had because of his work.

“In all the years I’ve cut hair, there’s never been a time where I’ve never enjoyed going to work,” Grover said. “I’ve never felt like it’s been a job.”

One person who did follow in his footsteps — without it ever being pushed on him — was Grover’s son Jesse. Despite saying “not one word” about Jesse Grover becoming a barber himself, that’s what he did. For 13 years, the two have stood feet apart doing what they both enjoy. He called it an honor, getting to work so closely with his son.

While it wasn’t always the path Brad Grover saw for himself, barbering was in his blood. Sitting on the wall of Brad’s Barbershop, near a list of prices from the 1960s and a signed Sports Illustrated cover of Ty Detmer, is a photograph from 1915. Standing in front of his barber’s chair on Ogden’s 25th Street at the beginning of the 20th century was Brad Grover’s grandfather.

Raised on a farm with his mother and stepfather, Brad Grover expected for a time that he would stay and be a farmer. But after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he wanted to learn how to cut hair as a fallback.

As if it was yesterday, Brad Grover remembers driving back to Idaho from school with his wife, then a schoolteacher early in her career, and being forced to make the decision to either farm or be a barber.

“I prayed in my heart, ‘Heavenly Father, help me to make a decision, a choice that would be helpful for me and my family and be a benefit to me,'” he said. “I can honestly say, it was my grandfather that answered my prayers.”

He’s still grateful for that answer. Brad Grover has been a counselor to those in need and a thoughtful ear to friends, family and everyone in between. He’s proud that the barber shop was always a place people could make a reliable pit stop for water and a donut.

Over the years, plenty of movers and shakers in Utah County have sat in Grover’s chairs. Whether it was a politician or BYU legend — Grover did specifically recall working with Danny Ainge and trying on Greg Kite’s NBA Championship ring — everyone was the same.

“If they were well-known names, I didn’t know it,” he joked.

Autographs that were once across the walls are now gone, replaced in part by family pictures and mementos. Even without the business’s namesake, Brad’s Barbershop will continue with Jesse Grover and a new barber, setting up for the first time on Tuesday.

In the run-up to Brad Grover’s goodbye, a sign sat in the windowsill congratulating him on retirement. People have come in and reminisced about their years in the confines of the business, of having their hair cut by the same man who worked on their fathers and grandfathers before them. One resident called Brad a “legend” and others know him and the shop for what it has become, a Spanish Fork institution.

While he may be done cutting hair full-time, Grover’s retirement isn’t permanent. He plans on coming back to his chair to fill in when he’s needed as a barber. In the meantime, though, he left words of wisdom for those looking to hear it. “The best thing you can do as a person is be kind to people. Be honest, be kind. Do those things and you’ll live a happy life,” he said.

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