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Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Luigi's In Metuchen

The neighborhood barber shop seems to be disappearing.  When I was a child the local barber shop was always busy.  On Saturdays there was an hour wait for a haircut, and the barber shop had six chairs.  There are still barber shops today, but they have two active chairs at most, and there is often no waiting.

Where have all the customers gone?  The population has grown since I was a child, I am sure hair has continued to also grow.  Who is cutting it?  Many men have given up the comb-overs and the trim in favor of the shaved head look.  Other men have taken to the ladies hair salon for a fancy wash trim, style and blow dry.  Children get their trims or buzz cuts at home, or at  “Kid Cut” specialty salons.  Those that still opt for the traditional barber shop go less often.  I used to get a cut every two to three weeks.  I now go once every two months.

I can remember going to the barber and watching men get a shave.  This shave involved a steaming hot towel, hot lather, and a very sharp very scary straight edge razor.  I have not seen anyone get a traditional barber shop shave in thirty years.  I cannot remember when I last saw a “traditional” barber who was under the age of fifty.

The local barber shop used to be so popular, and the haircut/shave combination so common that the famous seven note musical couplet often inserted comically at the end of a song, “Dump diddly dum dum….dum dum” was sung, “Shave and haircut…two bits.” 

I still go to a traditional local barber shop, “Luigi’s” in Metuchen New Jersey.  Luigi has a two chair shop.  The shop is generally busy, especially on Saturdays, but there is never a long wait.  Luigi’s customers are mostly old farts like me,  customers who don’t want the total bald look, and refuse to get a cut at a fancy “Women’s Hair Salon.”  My sister-in-law operates the best salon in town, and gives an excellent male haircut or trim; at no charge to family, and still I prefer Luigi’s.

Luigi’s has a certain charm.  It has a special barber shop smell, a unique atmosphere and of course it has Luigi.  Luigi is a bull of a man.  He has worked his chair for over forty years.  His opinions are as full and thick as his hair and his Italian accent.  Luigi has opinions on everything, and it takes very little prodding for him to voice them.  There are never any arguments at Luigi’s.  Whenever an opinion is offered it is immediately agreed upon by all present.  I think that is an unwritten Luigi rule.  “That’s right”, and “attsa right” are the most common responses to any opinion no matter how farfetched. 

On Saturdays some people come to Luigi’s just to kill time.  They come to chat with Luigi and I half expect them to pull up a chair and play checkers.  People stop by with free food, sandwiches from the deli across the street which Luigi claims, “They make a the best a sandwich in town.  The mutsarell is a fresh in a watt (water).”  Locals sometimes stop by to share a pizza pie, and Luigi always has fresh donuts;  lollypops for the kids, donuts for the grownups.

On the second chair is Luigi’s cousin, Mia.  Mia is a short lady with very big hair.  She wears shoes which add at least six inches to her stature, and if pirates allowed women on their ships, they would have looked like Mia. 

Mia is my barber.  I am not sure how I was assigned to Mia, but Luigi will not cut my hair.  I am Mia’s customer.  I thought I was special because Mia calls me Guy.  “You a nex, Guy.”  Turns out she calls every one Guy.  Mia makes ninety-seven percent of the conversation in her chair, usually an interpretation of a dream.  I understand about fifty percent of the ninety-seven.

When Spencer, my youngest went for his first haircut, one of the local kibitzers was calling him a sissy because he was afraid of the scissors.  Mia turned to this clown and pointing the scissors at him menacingly said, “He no sissy a boy!  How you like I poke a you eye out eh?” The kibitzer shut up, grabbed a donut, and quietly left the shop.   

I chose to write this blog as today when I went in for a trim, Luigi was absent.  I learned from Mia that he has been in the hospital for two months with a “Bile thing that had a be a drain.  He should a go in a soon, but he a stub.”  It seems he is on the mend, and will be back soon.  Luigi will return, but he is over seventy years old.  His shop cannot go on forever. 

It will be irreplaceable.    


  1. This post made me laugh and was sentimental at the same time. I can totally hear their accents from the way you write their words :) Sound like a great place, and no...his shop cannot go on forever. I can tell he will be missed by many when that sad day comes. Oh, and I like Mia's style! I love, love, love the east coast! There are a lot of Mia's on the east coast. Here in southern CA we don't have Mia's. We have a bunch of Real Housewives of Orange County. Blah!

  2. Oh, there's nothing that sets my Pixie heart aflutter more than an east coast Italian accent... Drool!

    I hope Luigi has someone besides just Mia to carry on the shop. The men used to gather in the barber shops the same way the women do in the salons. Probably BECAUSE the women were in the salon! I cut my own and my family's hair. Just haven't found anyone to do it without totally f'ing it up.

  3. I'm diggin' your perspective.

    Every family needs a cranky old man :)

  4. My husband and son go to the same barber they've been going to for years. This one barber never stops talking and he's probably the most entertaining person I've ever met in my life and you can just tell that he absolutely loves his job! Happy Blog Hop!

  5. OK were you at my house becasue that is excatly what my dad sounds like when he speaks..all words end with a vowel . My dad usd to always go to a barber until they shut his down now he is forced to go to a woman's salon which he LOVES because he can can flirt with the young ladies. It is become very trendy in my part of the woods to go in and get the old fashioned shaving done. Very cool and very pricey....

  6. Such a fun read! Sounds like a great barbershop and Luigi sounds like all my Italian relatives.

    Barber shops are alive and well her in our small college town. We have three and all thrive. The one my husband and boys go to, has two chairs and the owners (two brothers) chit chat and joke and carry on much like Luigi. The t.v. is always stationed on some sports game and there are sports pennants and posters up on the walls. Testosterone Heaven!

    1. thought Louie would go on forever. It was a great barbershop and that man had a heart of gold.

  7. I'm so glad I dropped by from the blog hop! You've got some great insights, packaged with some great writing! I loved this post, and look forward to reading more.

  8. The disappearance of a neighborhood business is such a loss: history, atmosphere... I love my little Minneapolis neighborhood and patronize the little shops. My hairstylist and I kid about a murder/suicide pact, but I shudder to think of who will do my eyebrows when she retires...


  9. I really like this post. Every now and then we tend to miss something that we used to do when we were kids.These simply grows with you.

  10. It was wondering if I could use this write-up on my other website, I will link it back to your website though.Great Thanks.
    Salt Lake City barber shops