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Friday, April 19, 2013

RIP LUIGI - "The Barber Shop"


I posted “The Barber Shop” two years ago.  Yesterday I suddenly received hit after hit on this post.  The viewer’s came from all around NJ and from many states as far away as North Carolina, Florida, Michigan and even Oregon.  My first thought was that Luigi was ill.  A little research and my worst fears were confirmed.  Luigi passed away April 17, 2013. 

I only knew Luigi the barber, not Luigi the man.  I suspect he was a strict but loving father, a loyal loving husband and a big mush of a grandfather.  I know his shop and his persona were landmarks in this small town.  If he could have charged for his common sense and his entertainment as well as for his haircuts he would have left this world a multi-millionaire.

RIP Luigi, we will not see your kind again…you will be missed.


THE BARBER SHOP (From November 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 my new 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 and lollypops; 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 post 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. Sounds like we lost a good man. Sorry to hear of his passing.


  2. Ah, good ol' Luigi.

    We have a place like that in my neighborhood, with the chairs. No Italians, though.

    And so the world keeps changing...


  3. I'm trying to remember the last time I had a good haircut.
    We still have a couple of real barber shops, but the real barbers can't compete with the franchise quick cut places.
    So they've cheapened their product and my haircuts are all the worse for it.
    That probably explains the shaved heads.

  4. For men of a certain age (including me) the barber shop played a significant role in masculine development. This was a place where guys went to be guys. Sorry to hear the special man passed away.

  5. less good guy and one more step to extinction of a wonderful piece of the heart of neighborhoods.

  6. Where have all the customers gone? I blame the Flowbee. Amazon has one for $129.99, you know. Seems like it was way cheaper back in the Popeil Pocket Fisherman days.

  7. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Luigi. He sounds very much like my childhood neighbourhood barber, Carmen. His shop was across the street from my Dad's variety store and it was that same kind of atmosphere you described.

    RIP, Luigi. Clearly, you were much loved.

  8. I discovered Luigi's when I moved to Metuchen 12 years ago. I loved that he would show up on Saturdays at 6:30 in the morning. It worked with my hectic schedule. In fact, if I got there as late as 6:30, I often found myself 3rd or 4th in line. People would get there at 6 and just wait for him. As I got to know the man a bit, I loved going there for the humor, the stories, the strong opinions on sports, food, TV, etc.
    I will miss him. God Bless.

  9. I stumbled into this post and I can really appreciate the barber shop and Louie. Weird as it seems, I believed he would last forever. That man (besides giving great cuts to males and females alike, having food to feed an army, and booze for the older customers who wanted a beer..had a heart bigger than all get out and gave some really sound advice. I should have listened better.. My dad had Alzheimers..After a day of standing on his feet for about 10 hours, he went to my dads house to cut his hair..wouldn't take money. My son had cancer (fine now) cut the few strands he had like it was a full of head of hair..brightened my sons day up by a lot. and wouldn't think of taking money for it. Just an amazing man

  10. Thanks for the memories. You gave a pretty accurate view of Louie, his attitude and his shop.


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