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Fire starts singing barber's retirement early
Norm Friesen's retirement started two weeks early.
New Westminster's singing barber, who writes and performs gospel music between trims was due to close his little shop on McKenzie Street at the end of October. But a massive fire that destroyed the E.L. Lewis building in which he's been based for the past 16 years beat him to it.
Friesen, who's been a fixture in Downtown New West for more than 40 years, was in Penticton enjoying a little rest and relaxation before an onslaught of appointments from regular customers who had booked one last haircut when his son Josh called from Calgary with the news that his was amongst more than a dozen businesses destroyed or damaged by the fire early Thursday morning. It was those customers who were uppermost in Friesen's mind as he absorbed the news.
"It's difficult to think about," said Friesen in a phone interview. "I'm going to have to cancel a lot of appointments."
Friesen said he's in no hurry to get back to New Westminster to survey the extent of the damage. He'd already sold one of two his vintage barber chairs in the shop but a pair of prints by renowned local train artist Max Jacquiard are likely gone as well as the stand-up piano where he'd work on songs while awaiting the next customer.
More upsetting, said Friesen, was the loss of many personal items like photo albums, baby clothes, collectibles, family heirlooms, records and CDs that belonged to his oldest son and were being stored in the shop's furnace room as his family prepared to move to a new home.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Friesen. "This is not the way I wanted to go into retirement."