FAIRMONT — It was closing time for good Saturday at Joe Spadafore’s barber shop on Virginia Avenue.
The beloved neighborhood barber retired after 54 years of cutting hair at his shop he opened in 1966.
“It was a great experience,” Spadafore said.
Spadafore said he is grateful for the many faithful customers he had during his time in business.
One devout customer, Charlie Lawler of Fairmont, stopped by Saturday morning to wish Spadafore a happy retirement.
Lawler said he’s been coming to Spadafore’s shop ever since it opened, on Jan. 4, 1966. So, he wanted to be there on the last day.
“He’s the only person who has ever cut my hair in that period of time,” he said.
Lawler said DeLuca’s barber shop always felt like family.
“He was part of the family, you could trust him,” he said. “It didn’t matter if you needed something, he was there for you. Plus, the fact he did a good job.”
Lawler said it was sad to see Spadafore retire, but he thought it was well deserved.
“You earn retirement, you don’t get it,” he said. “Nobody gives it to you. You earn it. He’s earned it.”
Lawler, who lives just down the street from the shop, said his grandfather had a grocery store in the same building in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.
“It’s the neighborhood, very, very familiar surroundings,” he said.
When Spadafore set up shop in the 1960’s, flat tops were popular and haircuts cost $1. He admits he has seen a lot of different hairstyles through the decades.
“Been through them all,” he said.
Now 77, Spadafore said he always wanted to be a barber.
“When I was in high school, I always thought I wanted to go to barber school,” he said, admitting it “just fit my fancy.”
He graduated from Wheeling Barber College in 1963, and then did an apprenticeship from 1964-65 in the downtown, before opening his own shop.
Spadafore still has a photograph of his first customer in his barber shop.
“This picture right here, that’s my Uncle Sammy,” he said, showing the picture. “It was the first haircut in this barber shop.”
Looking back over his first year in business, he said it was a great time.
Over the decades, he said, he became friends with customers, of which there were thousands. Many came back over and over.
Spadafore’s daughter, Stacey Spadafore, said her father deserved his retirement after all his years in business.
“He’s worked hard his whole life, made many sacrifices to provide for his family,” she said. “I’m sure he has mixed emotions. I’m sure he’s happy, sad, excited, nervous.
“He deserves to enjoy the rest of his life. I’m excited to see the new memories that he’s about to start making with my mother,” she continued.
She recalled how a neighborhood boy, “Babe” Stingo, was “basically a permanent fixture” at her father’s shop.
“He used to sweep the floors and clean out the ashtrays every day,” she said.
She said he would run errands for her father for 25 cents a day.
“He used that money to go to 12th Street swimming pool,” she said.
She said he stopped by the shop daily until, as an adult, he eventually moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Another faithful customer, Russ Neptune of Fairmont, said he started coming to Spadafore’s barber shop in the 1970’s.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed coming in here because when you come in here and get a haircut, you see a lot of people and a lot of friends and reminisce.”
He said Spadafore is a great barber and friend.
He recalled how Spadafore cut his parents’ hair, when they were in nursing homes, and gave haircuts to others who were shut-ins, which he thought was “remarkable.”
Neptune was grateful that Spadafore was a barber for so long in the neighborhood.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “We’ve been very lucky to be able to have that.”
As the morning went on, Spadafore gave a haircut to Joe DeLuca, who said they grew up together.
“I’ll miss the barber shop, that’s for sure,” DeLuca said