BENSALEM, Pa. - An 88-year-old man has been cutting the hair of first responders and veterans for decades at his Bensalem barbershop.
Up close, the Bensalem barbershop run by John Gutekunst looks like any other, but take a step back and you will notice the difference. Note the firetruck and police motorcycles out front of his Street Road shop and you get the idea that this 88-year-old Romanian immigrant has a special bond with his first responder customers.
Gutekunst was drafted by the Army shortly after arriving in the United States. He didn’t even speak English but says he felt welcomed by his new countrymen.
He opened the shop in 1954 and ever since he has served military, police firefighters, their children and grandchildren at prices that have barely budged with the times.
Those who work with out-of-work military veterans say they send their clients to Gutekunst before their job interview.
Gutekunst’s bond with first responders changed forever on 9/11 when the TV in his shop broadcast news of the terror attacks.
Barbershop manager Kathleen Campion says her customers’ radios began blaring calls to action.
“It was a lot of fear and we weren’t sure and I watched these men leave here and not know where they were going," Campion explained.
Gutekunst asked many of his military customers to sign a book in the shop when they head off to service.
Some never came back.
“Very sad. So that’s why I try to help a lot of people.”
He’s on his feet 40 hours a week. He opens his doors at 5 a.m. for customers on their way to work. Like the first responders he reveres, Gutekunst is repaying a debt of gratitude more than half a century in the making.