Palace Barbershop History

The palace barbershop . salon . spa began its existence as the Commercial Barbershop at 112 2nd Street S.E. It was next named the Ford Barbershop – today that space belongs to Red’s Public House.

In 1936, when it moved into half of the lobby, under the marquee of the Palace Theater, at 310 2nd Avenue S.E., it became The Palace Barbershop. (The Palace Theater sign is shown over the marquee in the picture at right.) The theater building is long gone, but when it opened in May 1908, it had one screen and 400 seats! (The building had previously housed the Sunshine Mission.) In its place today is the entrance to the parking ramp of US Bank. The only remaining building on that side of the block is the one where Bricks Restaurant & Bar is located. You can find it in the picture – next to the Magnus Hotel.


In 1957, Paul Knapp, having worked at the Palace Barbershop since 1948, became its new owner and moved it across the tracks to 418 2nd Avenue S.E. It was there for 18 months, until the building was sold to build the Goodyear store, which is still in business at that location today.

The next move took it to 521 2nd Avenue S.E., by the Ford garage and The Gazette, our local newspaper; Robert Armstrong owned this building. Mr. Armstrong was a well-known developer, who among other things had a very successful department store in our downtown. Mr. Armstrong eventually sold this building and an adjacent empty lot to Joe Hladky II, owner of The Gazette. They were in need of space for parking. The plan included tearing down the building and using the empty lot for the construction of a parking lot. The Palace Barbershop was once again facing a move.

During these years, downtown was growing. Robert Armstrong was working on a new building at 100 1St Street N.E., the Cedar River Tower. Paul discussed moving to this new building during Mr. Armstrong’s appointments. They eventually reached an agreement and closed the deal with a handshake. It would be
2 years before the tower was finished.

With the Palace Barbershop location soon becoming a parking lot, Paul approached another barber, Alden Morehouse, (Morey) about sharing his space until the construction of the tower was completed. They agreed to split the costs 50/50, and the Palace Barbershop moved into the back half of the Morehouse Barbershop, at 301 3rd Avenue S.E. This collaboration lasted 2 years – until the completion of the Cedar River Tower, in 1974. (An interesting note about the construction of the Cedar River Tower – during construction, as the foundation reached ground level, it was discovered that it was 1 foot lower than the level of the 100-year flood plain. The footings were torn out and replaced at the 1-foot higher level. Little did anyone know, this would be of no help when the flood of 2008 hit our city!)

In 1974, with the Cedar River Tower ready for its tenants’, the Palace Barbershop moved in as the first commercial resident. Morey and his employee also made the move and became part of the staff. In 1979, Morey retired and I, Karen Gardner, joined the crew at the Palace Barbershop and became a partner with Paul in 1986. We remained there until 1994 when the tower was sold.

The next relocation took the us to 102 1st Street S.E. (Paul worked several more years and took a well-deserved retirement in the early 2000's) The Palace Barbershop remained here for almost 13 years, until 2008, when 8½ feet of the Cedar River flowed through the business and it was destroyed.

After the flood, I moved the business to a temporary spot on Collins Road. During a haircut appointment, Tom Aller, president of Alliant Energy, and I talked of the devastation the flood had caused and he asked me about my plans. I told him I wanted to get back downtown and he said he could find a place for the Palace Barbershop in the Alliant Tower. From such a tragedy, came a wonderful opportunity.

So, here we are! The Palace Barbershop has evolved into: palace barbershop • salon • spa. We love our location and I feel proud to have had the opportunity to keep the palace in its long-time home of downtown Cedar Rapids!