a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, January 4, 2010

Barber retires after 70 years in business

By Christie Campbell

AVELLA, Pa. – Dominick DeFilippis was only 14 years old when he began cutting men's hair.

Now 84, DeFilippis plans to retire from the business he has been in for 70 years. Within the next month or two, he plans to close his shop in the small community of Avella.

Many of the men who had been DeFilippis' customers have passed away, and the younger generation is no longer interested in going to a barber shop, he said.

His shop on Campbell Street is a reminder of days when life was simpler and men stopped at a barber shop for a close shave and a haircut, taking the time to joke and gossip with friends and neighbors.

The shop has a vintage flavor with its three barber chairs dating to 1915, marble-topped antiseptic cabinets and razor strops. Unfortunately, the old red, white and blue striped barber pole outside his shop was stolen about 10 years ago. It was too costly to replace, he said. Today he turns on a revolving red light to signal when the shop is open.

An avid hunter, DeFilippis has photographs of his hunting trophies such as deer and turkey hanging in the shop, as well as photographs of his family. He won't miss working that much, he said, because it will give him more time to hunt.

DeFilippis initially learned the business from his father.

"I watched him, and I learned how to cut hair before I went to barber school," he explained.

He attended the Ideal Barber School in Pittsburgh during the summers, staying with his uncle. The school also operated a shop where customers paid 25 cents for a haircut from the students.

"When they saw what I could do, they put me up front," he said.

In the DeFilippis shop, haircuts were once 50 cents. Today he charges $10, $12.50 for long hair.

"I can give a nice haircut in 15 minutes," he said.

DeFilippis isn't too fond of today's hairstyling salons, and confesses he chuckles when he sees the way some women cut men's hair.

"They don't know how to do it," he said.

In addition to his dad, DeFilippis' brothers Pat and Frank cut hair. Back then the coal mines were operating, and DeFilippis remembers two theaters, a lumber yard, a bakery and a half-dozen grocery stores being in town. There were many men in Avella needing their services.

"We were busy all the time," DeFilippis said.

Although his customer base has dwindled, he still has a few who come from Follansbee or Wellsburg, W.Va., and one woman calls for an appointment whenever her son from Cleveland is planning to visit.

He and his wife, Mary, had four children, but only the youngest, Frank, followed in the family's business. He operates a hairstyling shop in Waterdam Plaza in McMurray.

(This article first appeared in the Observer-Reporter newspaper.)

1 comment:

MJ said...

Nice story, Christie. I now wish I had stopped by that barber shop before heading into the Indy Township meetings for a trim and a story. Good stuff.