Construction crews are demolishing the basement level of the Oklahoma State Capitol as part of a building restoration project. But the renovation is pushing out a decades-old business.
It is a weekday afternoon in the basement of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
In a small room, next to the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission office, Woody Yaklin is giving a haircut.
“I have pretty much a policy that whatever happens in the barbershop, stays in the barbershop,” Yaklin said.
Yaklin, 77, owns Mr. Woody’s Style Shop. His hair is nearly all white and he sports a salt and pepper mustache.
He has been cutting and styling hair since he left the military and enrolled in barber school in 1961, and took over the capitol shop from another barber in 1996.
“When I first came out here, I was a registered Republican,” Yaklin said. “Everybody I worked on out here was [a] Democrat...so I went down and signed up to be a Democrat and I’ve been a Democrat ever since.”
These days, Republicans hold the statehouse majority, but Yaklin said the political shift has not hurt his business.
“They all grow hair,” he said, laughing.
Yaklin has cut the hair, or lack thereof, of many Oklahoma bigwigs over the years, from lawmakers to governors to businessmen, but his time as the in-house Capitol barber is nearly over.
The Oklahoma State Capitol Restoration Project is shutting down Mr. Woody’s as part of a more than $240 million plan to renovate and update the building.
The head of the restoration project, Trait Thompson, is a self-described history buff. He has old drawings of the capitol building hanging on his office walls.
According to Thompson, the original building plans do not include a barbershop, and it is not clear when the basement storefront was added.
Thompson said the space currently occupied by Mr. Woody’s will become a new exhibit space to display Capitol artifacts--like the original silver-plated pickaxe Gov. Lee Cruce used to break ground for the building--and allow tourists and building visitors to learn Oklahoma history.
“Knowing that space is at a premium in this building, we want to use every square foot of space as well as we can,” Thompson said.
Woody Yaklin is closing officially Friday, and relocating his hairstyling business to a shop in Nichols Hills, where he plans to keep cutting hair for at least three more years. Though he said he anticipates many of his clients will follow him there, Yaklin is sentimental about leaving the state capitol.
“It’s sad,” Yaklin said. “But I’ve learned through the years that you just don’t get too attached to anything because what comes may go.”
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