Barbers revel in tradition
By SARAH GOODWILL
poor road conditions and a heavy snowfall last week, Tony
Sequette's barber shop was anything but dull.
trimming hair and clipping beards, the longtime barber and a
few old friends filled the shop on
Eau Claire Street
, sharing homemade meatball
sandwiches and cherry pie.
out here every day," said Tom Burnatoski, leaning back in one
of the two cushioned barber chairs. "I run the place," he
customers walk in and count heads to determine their wait for
a cut, Sequette said the shop regulars are as much a fixture
in the shop as the antique cash register and barber chairs
built with Armco steel.
customers are trained. They come in and say, 'You're (just
here) for coffee; you're for coffee; you're for coffee, I'm
Lapa's barber shop in
, a staff of
three, barbers share a camaraderie that makes customers feel
right at home.
are is barroom chat without the alcohol," said Georgi Long,
who worked as Lapa's secretary for 10 years before learning
barber skills as an apprentice to Lapa.
like Lapa, who pass their capes and clippers to the next
generation, keep the industry going strong.
a dying business," said Gharles Kirkpatrick, executive
director of the National Association of Barber 'Boards of
America. "Everybbody's got to have a haircut."
striped barber pole still identifies the tonsorial trade, the
shop locations, appearances and operations have changed to
keep up with changing cultures and styles.
don't all look like a '57 Chevrolet," Kirkpatrick said.
"Things change at the barbershop."
Keeping it in
Thomas, opening his East
barber shop eight
years ago was a life change.
leaving a career in the Marine Corps in 1992, Thomas worked in
several other jobs before picking up the trade shared by his
father and grandfather.
resulting shop reflects both Thomas' military-trained
efficiency and his quick wit.
track of waiting 'customers, Thomas discourages would-be
loiterers. Despite keeping visitors to a minimum, the shop is
not lacking in personality.
me to leave your ears where they are?" Thomas asks customer Ed
Lloyd as he takes the seat of honor on a recent
Like Thomas, Dan Fritch of
has followed in his
family's legacy of barbering.
operates Eppinger's Barber Shop in Zelienople, the business
opened by his step grandfather in 1911.
said the majority of his customers come in for variations on a
traditional cut known as a taper or fade.
seriously believe that a classic tapered haircut is best on
everybody," said Fritch, whose stepfather Bill Eppinger, now
68, still works alongside him part-time.
with electric clippers, Fritch trims hair gradually shorter as
he reaches the neck. The technique, he said, makes grow out
stylist creates a line. A barber does everything in his power
not to 40 that," he said.
Fritch specializes in the classic cuts offered for years at
the shop, Lapa keeps his eye on changing styles to please his
customers, many of them Grove City Collegestudents.
'60s came in, I learned to work with long and short hair,"
addition to the pictures some customers bring in, Lapa and the
two other barbers in his shop make use of instructional videos
and attend barber shows to stay updated on the latest
we've been stereotyped that we just do buzz cuts, but whatever
they want, we do," Lapa said.
salons far outnumber barbers in the yellow pages, customers at
barber shops are searching for a specific method of
generation they would be lost in a beauty shop," Fritch said.
"A lot of guys, they don't want to go through dunking their
head in a shampoo bowl"
working with clippers on dry hair is quicker than a shampoo
and cut, Lapa said working with dry hair also helps him see
how a customer's hair grows and how it will look when
more natural way of cutting," he said.
services customers might not find at the salon include the
trimming of eyebrows and nose and ear hair, part of the
grooming Lapa offers.
for his customers, the focus is on grooming, not
"To a guy,
it's a haircut. It's about making it easier again."
Fritch has carried on the traditional cuts his predecessors
offered, technology has brought new conveniences to his
addition to calling in for a 15-minute appointment, Fritch's
customers can visit his Web site to see what times are
computer sits beside Fritch's appointment book, allowing him
to quickly update his Web site s new appointments are
for speed is a change Thomas also has noted among his
society is an information society. It's an instant
gratification society," he said.
many like the ability to walk in without an appointment, he
said some customers get anxious while waiting or even while in
don't hesitate to say to you, 'Can you cut
mornings, a large green arrow hangs from the ceiling, pointed
at the barber chair. Attached is a sign that declares the
barber working below takes a 15-minute lunch break at 1
the warning, he said many customers are surprised when Thomas
takes a break from waiting customers to grab a
before 7 a.m., Thomas has set a closing time of 4 p.m., though
he is often in the shop until 5 or 6 p.m., finishing up
the door at 4 p.m. If I don't lock the door, they'll still
from the influx of customers, Thomas has set a schedule of
opening Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, allowing a few days
each week to recover.
and skill have created many return customers who have begun to
worry about the 56-year old barber's retirement.
even go to any barber. I just go to this one," said Larry
, who visits Thomas
regularly to maintain his "high and tight" style -- a close,
military-style shave on the sides with some length on the
Thomas, Sequette's return visitors have set unofficial bans on
close this place," said Sequette, who allows his friends to
spend time in the shop even while he is on
friend, Roger Henderson, said that his wife personally thanked
Sequette for allowing him to spend time in the shop during his
doesn't appreciate me being underfoot" he joked.
doesn't mind admitting that he will never be able to
would (Sequette's wife) do with all of us at her house," joked
the pole turns
barbers and their customers see the hometown barber as an
endangered species, statistics show growth in the
time, however, changing styles have taken their toll on the
"In military time, short hair
for men has always been in," Kirkpatrick said.
that popular culture icons like Elvis, and later the Beatles,
led many men to start letting their hair grow longer and turn
away from the barber shop.
The change was reflected in
number of barber shops in the country. In the '70s, he said,
there were about 195,000 barbers in the country, down from
340,000 during World War II.
Kirkpatrick said growth resumed in the
late 1980s and early '90s, naming Tom Cruise's role in "Top
Gun" as one of the icons that led the change.
also been strong in barbershops catering to the hair texture
of African Americans, bolstered in part by the movies
"Barbershop" and "Barbershop II".
there are 235,000 barbers in the
, and the number is continuing to
to the Pennsylvania Department of State, the number of
licensed barbers in the commonwealth stands at 3,113, up from
2,899 in the 2006-07 fiscal year.
other businesses cut back jobs because of outsourcing and
increased technology the fields of barbering and cosmetology
manufacture what we sell", Kirkpatrick said. "We don't have to
worry about anybody flying to china to get a
demonstrates his barbering skills as he trims Gene Younkin's
neck with a straight razor. Customers can get a haircut and an
earful at the the traditional barber
While Lapa snipped away and his
customers talked about the woes of the world, a
student stopped by to drop off the campus's
newspaper. Bandy Tillow is a junior and majoring in
communications. She threw in her two cents.
She's nervous. Veteran employees are
having trouble finding work and she wondered what that will
mean for her when she graduates. She added that a lot more
people have applied for college scholarships this
Then there's Chelsea, a 20-year-old
Harrisville woman, who said it's health care she's worried
about. It took her a year to get health insurance and now that
her hours have fallen below 27 per week, she's lost her
Bob, a 63-year-old
area man who remodels homes for a living, said
staying positive is key. He laid blame for consumer confidence
on the media and leaders in Washington who he said take too
many shots at the economy.
Bob has been in business since the
1970s and he said the business climate reminds him of 1981 and
'82, when a lot of contractors went under.
He said the media was overly negative
then, too, and the blow to people's confidence made them tight
with their cash and that drove folks under.
But Bob hopes the lack of calls at his
business lately is as much a product of bad weather as the
recession. He said he won't know until things thaw out, and
it's a time to stay optimistic.
Optimistic or not, Bob didn't hang his
hopes on the stimulus plan, still being pounded out by
Congress when he spoke. Too much of the money would go toward
politicians' pet projects, he said.
Emma Mochrie, who along with her
husband runs a
catering service said some of the
money used to bail out the banks since October has been lost
track of. She said the stimulus ought to go to small business
owners. "We know where our money goes", she joked.
who still keeps her accent, Mrs. Mochrie said despite it all,
small business owners will persist. "I think the small
businesses will hang in their." Business owners will tighten
their belts, she said, and "buckle down`" until the bad times