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Pete Peterson retires from the Red Rooster Barbershop after 45 years

After more than 45 years at the Red Rooster on 13th, legendary barber Pete Peterson retired on Friday.

The man responsible for Steve Prefontaine’s signature flow, the haircuts of the past seven university presidents and many more famous faces is finally stepping down as owner of the Red Rooster Barbershop.

Peterson was not prepared for such a sudden departure.

“I haven’t had much time to think about it,” he said. “A fella came in Monday, bought the place, and he wanted me out within 24 hours. And I said, ‘Well, I can’t leave that quick, I have too much to do,’ and I talked him into letting me stay until Friday.” 

This “fella”, Nathan Shields, was the original owner of the shop when Peterson bought it in the early 70’s. Now, Shields is buying it back, and he wanted Peterson out as soon as possible.

The walls of the old barbershop are lined with memorabilia from University of Oregon’s athletic history, from current team photos and schedules to iconic posters of the one and only Prefontaine. With the buzz of electric razors, the hum of ESPN commentators on the perched television set in the corner of the shop and customers patiently waiting for their turn while reading the Wall Street Journal, the atmosphere is intimate and welcoming.

“Oh look, Scott Coltrane. Hey Scott!” Peterson says as the former interim university president walks in for a cut.

As for the famous heads Peterson has worked on, he has seemingly endless stories from the men who have passed through his shop.

“My best friend was a kid who went to school here in 1970, and we formed a friendship as a customer and a student, to the point where I became godfather to his children and he became the godfather to my children, and I would give my life for this fella,” he said.

“I have a kid who’s coming in here tomorrow,” Peterson said, “he’s 30-something years old now and I gave him his first haircut. He’s flying up from California to be here, and now I’m getting emotional.”

As for retired life, Peterson does not have many other plans, other than “fixing up” his house and working on longtime customers’ hair that still want their regular barber.

“If you come in here for your haircut, something magical happens,” he said. “I’ve always said, make friends out of your customers, not customers out of your friends. And I try to live up to that.”

Despite his departure, it will remain the Red Rooster Barbershop. Jim Lavender and his daughter will keep working, and Peterson estimates that there will be about 100 years of combined experience with the current lineup of barbers.

“What will I do after retirement?” Peterson pondered on the day before he left his position at the shop: “Cry.”

“My life has been blessed and it’s going to be really hard for me to not have that,” Peterson said.

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Casey Miller

Casey Miller