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She keeps razors running

What started out as a business for her son has become a career for RustySmith.

She's the owner of Rusty's Electric Shaver and Barber Supply in Medford,one of few women in the country who owns a factory-authorized shaver repairshop. It's the only one between Redding, Calif., and Eugene; she advertisesfrom Roseburg to Yreka, Calif., and from the coast to Klamath Falls.

Smith and her then-husband moved to Medford in the 1960s when racialstrife swept through their native North Carolina.

They were busing kids from neighborhood to neighborhood and therewere lots of fights in school, she said. We were looking forsomeplace without racial problems.

Her husband worked for United Airlines, and they had a choice of Hawaii,Chicago, Eugene and Medford.

She worked at the Red Baron restaurant at the Medford airport for sixyears before getting her real estate license.

She was successful enough to buy the razor and barber supply shop fromTed Merkel when he listed it for sale with her real estate office.

I bought it with my oldest son in mind, but he worked here fouryears and decided to become a teacher, she said. The son, Rick Richardson,now teaches school in St. Louis.

I was divorced at the same time and I had no choice but to runthe business as a sole proprietor, she said. My son didn't thinkI was going to do all the repairs. I told him, `I have two hands and a brainjust like you.' I've always been very mechanical.

Dave Doran, owner of Dave's Barber Shop, has been a customer for 17 years.

She's survived some big-time competition, he said. Sheknows her electric razors, plus she has pretty hair. Of course, I'm a barberand I always notice people's hair.

Her red hair earned her the name Rusty.

Smith does all the warranty ­ and nonwarranty ­ work on Remington,Braun and Norelco products.

Electric razors aren't throw-away items, she said. They often need cleaningor new rechargeable batteries.

A lot of times a man will get used to the way his razor feels andjust doesn't want to change, she said. The rechargeable batterieswill last four or five years. I just put new batteries in a razor one ofmy customers has been using for 20 years.

She had just finished servicing five electric razors for a nursing home.

They could never afford to go out and buy a new one every timesomebody drops a razor, she said. I have accounts with ranches,beauticians, barbers, nursing homes, Rogue Valley Memorial Hospital.

She also sells razors.

I'm real picky about what I'll sell, she said. Whena new razor comes out, I'll take it apart and see how it's made. If I likethe way it's built, I'll sell it.

Running the business is a demanding job.

I never get a vacation, she said. I've had one 2-weekvacation in 12 years. But I love the work. I never dread Mondays; I'm alwayshappy to open my doors. I get to talk to a lot of people and meet differentpeople.

She does have time to become involved in the community. She's been amember of Medford Rogue Rotary since 1989 and has been working with a groupof people to develop Boys and Girls Clubs in Jackson County.

She expanded her office at 506 S. Riverside Ave. and added a barbershopeight years ago. Archie Stamper has cut there ever since.

He's an old-fashioned barber, she said. We're goingto have fewer and fewer of them after the last barber college in Oregonclosed last year.

Smith dispenses some advice with her repairs from time to time.

Just dip it in kerosene, that will get the hair out, shetells a caller inquiring about clippers. You don't need the recharger,just the toothbrush, she tells a visitor to her shop.

And sometimes she'll counsel men on how to get their razors to work better.

Men will want to press too hard and it just flattens their beardso the microscreens won't pick it up, she said. I remember thisone guy. I told him, `You're going at it too fast and too hard ­ you'vegot to go slow and easy.' He said, `You damn women are all the same.'

Rusty Smith repairs an electric razor in her shop on Riverside Avenue. - Photo by Andy Atkinson</P