Hatteberg's People - Rusty Ryan

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March 28, 2010

On Hatteberg’s People, I’ve done stories on many barbers, but never one like Rusty Ryan of Anthony, Kansas. He loves his work, his community and fishing. And if you stick around long enough and take the bait, you’ll find out why anglers all over the world are familiar with this small town barber.

“I can honestly say that I never hated to come to work a single day in my life,” Ryan said.

Rusty Ryan’s work has been here, on the Main Street of Anthony, Kansas. At 81 he still operates Rusty’s Barber shop that has served generations of Anthony residents.

“You know, I came in here and I was getting ready to go to the Navy and I always had a flattop and I said Rusty, give me another nice flattop. He did, but when I got to boot camp, they shaved all that off,” Ryan said. “I get told things I never repeat.”

There are a million stories in this little place, but it isn’t the barbershop that has made Rusty famous.

It’s in the buildings next door where another business called ‘Rusty’s Bait’ is located. Yes, bait. 53 years ago Rusty and his wife Jean started making bait because of Rusty’s love for fishing. Well, the little business grew.

“We basically manufacturer over 20 million baits,” Ryan said.

Yes, he said 20 million. Now ask him how many Wal-Mart stores he’s in…

“Over 3000, and we’re in Dick’s Sporting Goods, Alco and we sell Bass Pro’s,” Ryan said.

It’s just bait, all kinds of bait, shipped even to Kuwait and Iraq, all from this little place in Anthony where an 81 year old man is still married to the woman he used to cut bait with.

“We’ve been married 62 years and the best thing to ever happen to me is my wife,” Ryan said

“It’s also the best thing that ever happened to me too,” Jean Ryan said.

In the bait rooms Charlie Poe is his manager. She runs the business so Rusty can barber.

“I think we did 120 tons this year. Yeah a 100 tons, just imagine how many it takes to make a ton?” Poe said.

“I probably average 70 to 80 hours a week for years and years. But when you like what you are doing, it’s not work.” Poe said.

Few people know how big this business is – even in Anthony. Rusty added a semi to take his products to the distribution points.

“I think the most satisfaction I get out of it, is that it catches fish. If it doesn’t catch fish, we do not build it. It’s real simple,” Rusty said.

It is simple. In the barbershop, Rusty cuts hair. Next door, they cut bait.

“It’s been like a love affair. I’m very content. I wouldn’t change a thing,” Rusty said.

For more information on Rusty's Bait, visit rustysbait.com

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