Mugsys sign

Michelle Muggenburg


Michelle Muggenburg has lived a lot of places, studied in many schools and worked at a wide range of jobs. Most of them being in Personal Care: Barber, Beautician, Nail Technician, Spa Specialist, Nursing Assistant, Massage Therapist, Hospice Worker, etc. That trend began back in 1978 in Harlowton.

She was living in Harlo then a few years out of high school, wondering about finding a trade. She talked with Dick Freier and Carrol Woodel about becoming a barber. They wondered, “A woman as a barber. There aren’t any. It might take you 45 years to get up to speed and establish a customer base.”

Well, that was an incentive for Michelle, “By golly, I’ll be one of the first female barbers in Montana.”

(Since that time, barbering has changed dramatically in the Rockies and the whole country. There are no longer any barber college in the region. Haircutting and fixing have blended more and more. Unisex salons are common, these days. Barbers and beauticians generally do much the same work: cuts, perms, styles, facials and shaves.)

Michelle had graduated HHS in 1974, one of five Muggenburg children. Connie, Diana, Lynn and Kris being the others. After high school she spent a year with sister Connie at Sierra Vista, Arizona. Returning to Montana, she worked as a cook and cleaner at West Yellowstone.

She made the leap to barbering through Big Sky Barber Styling in Missoula in 1978-79 and got her master barber license. Michelle went to work at Jerry’s Barbershop on Main Street in Roundup during the day and cooked on the night shift at the Busy Bee. Working for Jerry Fisk was “a great learning experience.”

After six months, she moved to Le Marque Barbershop across from Senior High in Billings. Then another six months later, Michelle moved out to Port Townsend, Washington. “They wouldn’t hire a female barber,” so Muggenburg went to work for the Miracle Ranch, a Christian ranch for kids. She helped out in the kitchen and did a lot of canoeing and learned how to shoot a bow and arrow in her spare time.

Then, she went to college for several years. First, at Lutheran Bible Institute in Issaquah where she received an AA in Biblical Studies, 1982-84. Michelle came back to Montana and studied 1984-86 at Eastern Montana College completing her BA in Gerontology. She had hopes and intentions of working as an activities director at a nursing home, but that never happened.

Instead, Michelle returned to Washington after graduating and worked as a CNA at Marionwood Nursing Home and also cleaned houses from 1987 to 93. By 1991, she returned to barbering and found here way back to Jerry’s Barbership. This time in Bothell, Washington. It was Jerry Johnson’s shop. She also attended the Paul Mitchell Beauty School graduating with a cosmetology license in 1993. Michelle continued at Jerry’s until 1995.

When she first moved to Washington, she had done a 3-month course at Crown School of Hair Design to get her state license. She returned to Paul Mitchell’s for more training and to upgrade her talents.

From 1995 to 2002, Muggenburg ran her own barber shop: Mugsy’s. Jerry Johnson had closed his business and Michelle took over Red’s Barbershop. “The old fellas brought in their grandsons.” Mugsy had enough business to hire a second barber named Loretta.

After having knee surgery and selling her business, Michelle went back to nursing, home health and hospice care (in jobs which required little lifting) in Mount Vernon, WA. At the urging of one of her clients with whom she used to smoke cigars and raise a little cain, Muggenburg attended Massage Therapy School at Ashmead College in Everett. She had a “really wonderful experience” then working for two years at the Whisper on the Bay Spa doing massage and nails. She moved on to the Medallion Spa in Arlington for two years prior to returning to Harlowton.

“Massage school was a time of growth. I got to learn a lot about body and energy work. Massage training proved to be an eye opening experience to a different world of healing. I had always wanted to be in the healing field and work one-on-one with people. My passion is healing. I like to be around a preventive, healthier environment.”

While personal care and healing are her calling, Michelle Muggenburg likes to travel, spend time in the mountains and on the beach at the ocean. She and her sisters and mother have made eleven trips in recent years from Canada to Mexico and Hawaii to Branson, Missouri. “I really enjoy a good road trip.” Attending festivals, fairs and concerts also help add fun and inspiration to her life. Her music tastes run from jazz to bluegrass and country to rock and roll.

Michelle has just passed her exams and is a licensed again as a barber and cosmetologist for the state of Montana. Muggenburg looks to get a new Mugsy’s Barbershop open in Harlowton at the Montana Title Building in the next few weeks. Starting with haircuts and moving to nails and skin care, massage and body treatments - Swedish, deep tissue and hot stones. A spa type approach with room to grow and a community feel is her goal and expectation.

Mugsy also intends to keep going to school to learn more techniques such as foot reflexology, body therapies, etc. No telling what modality she will learn next and what school will be her teacher.