Mike “The Barber” Eberstein is a licensed charter captain who spends a lot of time on Michigan’s many lakes and rivers, but no longer takes many paying customers on trips. With Win Matteson, owner of Matteson Marine in Gull Lake, Michigan, he has formed Downtime Ministries, which focuses on taking ministers, deacons, and at-risk kids out fishing.

“Win called me one day and shared his dream to do this,” says Eberstein, who has cut hair at Mike’s Barber Shop in Schoolcraft for more than three decades. “Win said that we each have worked hard at our day jobs for 30-plus years and been very blessed, so why not start a ministry to share the blessing by taking people fishing who need a break from a hectic life and who otherwise couldn’t afford to go?”

“It was just a calling that I had,” says Matteson. “I felt I wanted to give back. I know that pastors and pastoral staff are overworked and underpaid, and don’t have the resources to buy the equipment, yet a lot of them love to fish. At a seminar I attended, I learned how many pastors and priests leave the ministry each year because of stress—it’s a crazy number. We can provide a way for them to relax and kick back, just enjoy a day on the water and recharge.”

Eberstein has been a Lund Pro Staffer for nine years, helping Matteson Marine sell watercraft like his current boat, a 2000 Lund Alaskan, in the southwest Michigan region. The location of his bright red barbershop on Schoolcraft’s main drag helps, as Mike parks his annual pro staff boat outside. The thoroughfare is U.S. 131, a busy north-south traffic artery between the Indiana state line, through the little town of Schoolcraft and on up to Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, two large cities. Traffic lights slow motorists down, affording a good gander at the fully rigged boat in front of the shop.

One doesn’t see a whole lot of places like Mike’s Barber Shop anymore. It has the ambiance of a museum, and there’s always a hot pot of coffee available. Most days of the week, Eberstein will be in his one-chair business cutting hair for people he knows on a first name basis, with other guys just sitting around talking about fishing or farming or Schoolcraft high school sports. Fishing and football memorabilia cover the walls of the shop. Taxidermist mounts of a big musky, a giant walleye, a brown trout, and a smallmouth bass hang under the high ceiling, along with a deer head and several other sets of antlers. In one corner is a poster that says “Thanks Mike from the 2001 Schoolcraft Eagles.” He’s a big booster of the football team—each August a steady stream of youngsters file in for end-of-summer trims.

Mike Eberstein holds a Lake Michigan steelhead he trolled up out of South Haven, Michigan on a fine day last June.

Mike obviously is well-acquainted with the men and most of the kids or at least their parents—as a successful small-town barber would be.

One fellow Mike never met before comes in to inquire about the boat parked out front. He says he’s from Grand Rapids, and has seen the boat several times driving between home and Indiana. Yes, Mike tells him, it’s for sale, and goes over how the boat is rigged with its main power, a 115-hp Mercury four-stroke outboard and the Minn Kota I-Pilot trolling motor on the bow. It’s a soft sell, as Eberstein covers the features that make the boat so perfect for the wide variety of fishing adventures available for someone living in Michigan.

The fellow isn’t quite ready to buy, so Eberstein gives him a business card for Matteson Marine, making sure he knows he can see other boats in the Lund lineup there on his way home to Grand Rapids.In three years since starting the ministry, Eberstein has taken about many different groups fishing in a wide variety of places. Over the past couple of weeks, Eberstein has been taking pastors and others on the Detroit River, which is smoking hot for walleyes—big walleyes. Matteson runs a lot of trips for the ministry out of Pentwater, seeking big Lake Michigan salmon.

Although the original intent of the ministry was to take pastors fishing, Matteson says it has taken an unanticipated course.

“We’re progressing into taking troubled teens, less fortunate teens, maybe kids who don’t have a dad or another male figure in their lives,” Matteson says. “If we can get them out in a boat and show them how we live, how we feel, maybe we can turn a life around. If we help just one kid out, it will all be worthwhile.”

For more information on Michigan fishing go to michigan.org.

Images by Dave Mull

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