This month marks exactly 50 years since Marty Flint first welcomed customers to the Excalibur Barber Shop in Saline, opening his doors in September of 1968 in the exact location it sits today at 109 S. Ann Arbor St.
Known for his affable demeanor, penchant for good conversation and, above all, quality haircuts, Flint said he decided on barbering for a living shortly after graduating from Britton High School.
“Well, I was going to go to college to become a minister,” he said,” but I figured barbering might be a little easier way of making some money, so I went to barber college instead.”
Flint said he attended barber college in Detroit, getting by on living thriftily and working odd jobs like shining shoes to subsist. He then served a two-year apprenticeship, all the while saving his money to eventually buy a barber shop of his own.
Flint’s hard work and frugality paid off shortly thereafter.
“When I was 20 years old I bought my first shop,” he said, citing the location as near the intersection of W. Chicago Schaefer in Detroit. “When I was 21 I bought my competitor out on the corner.”
The riots in Detroit of 1967 prompted Flint to sell his assets and move operations closer to where he lived in Tecumseh, the city he stills calls home.
Flint decided on Saline after eyeing a former office space for lease in what seemed to him like a good location to set up shop.
“I came here because this place was for rent,” he said. “It was about the only business on the street at the time. It was a dentist office so I came in with a sledge hammer and knocked all the walls down.”
Flint’s initial décor featured walls adorned with both paneling and red carpet, he said with a chuckle.
“I’ve remodeled five times since then.”
As for the name of the shop, Flint said he just wanted to do something a little bit unconventional.
“I just liked King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table,” he said. “I didn’t want to name it Marty’s Barber Shop because everybody had, you know, Harold’s Barber Shop, John’s Barber Shop or Joe’s Barber Shop.”
Flint said Saline was more of a farm town 50 years ago, and the downtown streetscape has changed a lot since then.
“There used to be a grocery store across the street,” he said, pointing out of his front window. “And the library was down here, too.”
Well into his third generation of patrons, Flint has built a loyal group of faithful customers. While he has employed a handful of barbers over the years, including family members, Flint said he is currently working solo and has a steady flow of haircuts to do.
“On a busy Saturday I do about 20,” he said.
Sort of like a bartender, Flint said people often become comfortable enough with him to share their problems and dilemmas, and he has never shied away from helping customers work through their difficult life situations.
“I’ve been here until one or two o’clock in the morning sometimes just trying to get people straightened out,” he said.
Outside of work Flint is a happy family man, married, and has three adult children. He is also an avid outdoorsman, having spent many years hunting and recreating in the woods, often in the northernmost reaches of Michigan near Copper Harbor.
Flint said he picked up his fondness for deer hunting after a buddy showed him how to shoot a bow.
“With a friend of mine one day I just started shooting some bows and arrows and kept getting better and better at it,” he said.
Flint said the sum of his life so far, both at work and at play, has added up to something very special.
“If most people had as much fun in their lifetime as me, they’d have had a real good life,” he said. “I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do.”
But that doesn’t mean Flint is going anywhere any time soon.
“I’ll probably die behind the chair,” he said with a hearty laugh. “If I retired I would miss my customers. You know, I ‘ve been doing this for a long time and you become real good friends with a lot of the customers.”
When asked if he could guess how many haircuts he’s given over the years, Flint said it is a number lost in time.
“I don’t have the slightest idea,” he said. “It’s a lot!”
Excalibur Barber Shop is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and is closed on Sunday.