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The occasion of a small business person celebrating their 30th anniversary is special enough, and to be doing it in the same location all those years is even more unique.
But put those milestones together with the fact that the business owner — Roberto Parciasepe of Roberto’s Barber Shop — is now partnering with his son, Paul, and you’ve got a Father’s Day success story of “shear” epic proportion.
The father and son sat down in a rare lull between one of Paul’s regular customers who traveled in from Waterbury for a trim and one of Roberto’s clients who has been a loyal patron for all of the past 30 years that the austere shop has been tucked into a cozy corner at 103 South Main Street, between a tile store and dry cleaner.
Roberto clearly recalls working in a barber shop owned by a family friend in Italy as a 10-year-old, where he started by sweeping floors and observing the older men as they crafted haircuts with scissors and clippers.
Then, when he was old enough, he went into military service, where he honed his barbering skills. Soon after, he relocated with his family to Waterbury while he worked a chair for another barber in Ridgefield.
“My in-laws were in Danbury, and then I moved to Waterbury, so I always wanted a store somewhere in between. That’s how I found this location in Newtown back in 1988,” he said. “I used to come through here all the time.”
While Paul said he always respected his dad’s work, traipsing from the family home in Waterbury to Newtown five days a week for three decades to help make others look their best, he decided to explore a career in counseling and became a therapist before finding he, too, had a love and a natural gift for barbering — just like his dad.
“We do give a lot of good advice here,” Roberto said. The two joked that in many ways, they are like good analysts — without the $200 per hour office visit.
In fact, for one-tenth of that, anyone can walk in (except for Wednesdays and Sundays when the shop is closed), and get the best either Roberto or Paul has to offer in a good haircut.
“I always remember watching my dad cutting hair as I was growing up. As I got older, I decided to go to barber school, but I really learned a lot from the master,” he said pointing at Roberto. “Once I got my license, I started working part-time on weekends and filling in during his vacations.”
“He made the decision on his own,” Roberto said. “And when he told me he wanted to come in full time, I was so happy. I figured now this place would not have to go to a stranger.”
Even though the shop is relatively small and simply decorated, both of the Parciasepes are well-seasoned when it comes to the contemporary style demands of their clients.
“Back in 1988 when I opened, the boys and the girls still both had longer hair,” said Roberto.
“Now we do the fades, scissor cuts, tapers, and a lot more. People like the full service experience, so they get a nice shave, too, with the hot towel,” he said.
“I’d say there is a lot more variety now,” Paul added. “And beard trims are big, the bushy beards.”
“My other son’s got the big beard,” Roberto said, pointing to a picture of his other boy, Joseph.
Paul pointed out that the thicker and longer a beard is, the more expertise is required to make it look neat and handsome. They offer a special price for a beard/hair cut combo.
“You’ve really got to sculpt it up every now and then, or it starts looking unruly. So we’ll do a lot of shaping for the guys who like to wear the bigger beards,” Paul said. “If you have a big beard, it’s hard to trim it yourself; you never get it even, and you start cutting it down. You need somebody standing in front of you using the right tools.”
Those tools are also part of the charm at Roberto’s. None of the counters are cluttered with all manner of novelty equipment.
“It never really changes, just scissors and clippers,” Roberto said.
“And razor blades,” Paul said. “The only difference is a lot of the clippers are now rechargeable and wireless.”
“There’s not a lot of cords hanging around now,” Roberto said.
Generations Of Gents
Occasionally, the Parciasepes will get a female client, but the majority of their regulars are men and children.
And since Roberto has been at the same location for 30 years, he is seeing a few grandchildren of his older clients coming in for their first haircut, along with many of the younger dads coming in with their own kids.
“I remember kids who we used to put on the children’s chair, and now they are bringing their own kids in to sit on the same chair,” Roberto said.
“A lot of people coming in to see my dad are bringing their kids,” Paul said, “and I’m getting to cut them while my dad cuts their dad’s.”
Like all family businesses, there is always the thought of one day passing on the torch.
“I’ve been full-time here for awhile, and I’ve been actively building a following here. It takes time to build up a following like my father has,” Paul said. “Eventually, when he’s ready to retire, I hope to keep it going for another 30 years.”
Don’t come to Roberto’s expecting to be talked into buying the newest or most expensive hair care products. The father and son like to keep it simple.
“We have a little showcase there, that’s all,” Paul said. “We aren’t the kind of place that likes to push a lot of product on you — it makes them feel uncomfortable. We’re not going to go out of our way to push things on you you don’t want. People who like a particular product can ask us, and we’ll order them anything they want, and it’s here in a couple of days.”
Folks can find out what is happening at Roberto’s and see specials and photos of some of their latest cuts on the shop’s Facebook and Instagram pages.