If you give a man a good shave and cut, he’ll always come back. Thus begins the unique relationship between a barber and his patrons.
“I travel 900 miles to get my hair cut by Nick,” John Caracciolo said about Nick Oricchio, owner of Majestic Barber Shop.
Caracciolo, a retired Long Beach firefighter, was back in the city’s oldest barbershop from his home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, last week.
Oricchio came from Salerno, Italy, 49 years ago and has served local firefighters like him, as well as police officers and politicians and their children, for generations.
“We come not only for a good haircut, but to hear Nick’s stories,” said Pete Moesthen, a Long Beach resident for 47 years, whose 52-year-old son and 19-year-old grandson are also customers. “You get younger and younger in Nick’s place."
Rob Manis, 37, followed Joe Panzarella, who has been cutting his hair for 15 years, and his father, Benny, formerly of Rivoli in Oceanside, to Majestic. Manis also regularly takes his son, Justin, 4, with him to the shop at the corner of West Park Avenue and National Boulevard.
Down the block on East Park Avenue, Oceanview Barber Shop also has its share of regulars.
“I’d do it everyday if I could afford it,” said one patron, Ric Iverson. “I like the luxury and it makes my day.”
Iverson gets his hair cut at Oceanview weekly, and he trusts the skills of his barber, George Stroface. “George hasn’t cut me yet,” he said.
Owned by Frank Oliviero since Valentine's Day in 1954, Oceanview has an old-time barbershop atmosphere in which customers are made to feel as if they’ve stepped back in time to an Italian village. They consist mostly of men with less hair up top to cut but sport more eyebrows and nose hairs to tweeze. But younger patrons in need of a cut also share the chairs at Oceanview.
Oliviero, Stroface and Domenico Sozio hold court there and what happens in the barbershop stays in the barbershop, Oliviero said.
“Old men who know their trade,” said customer Tom Ganley about his favorite shop. “These are the kind of barbers that I grew up with. It’s friendly, comfortable and you know everyone, the way the neighborhood shop should be.”
There's a different atmosphere across town at Top Hat, where barbers Boris, Arthur and Michael work in a newly renovated corner storefront at West Beech Street and Wyoming Avenue, which Michael has owned for six years.
The barbershop has been a fixture in the West End for 40 years, with two former owners.
“I’ve followed Boris from the Bronx and he’s been cutting whatever is left of my hair for 15 years,” said retired legal consultant Ed Glister, 63, a resident of Pelham and Long Beach.
The shop attracts a diversity of customers. Lorenzo Gallo, now 21-months-old, got his first haircut at Top Hat last week, and Danny O’Brien, who has been a customer for ten years, regularly comes in for a “full tune-up.” That includes a facial message after a soapy lather and shave, hot towel and a cut.