At Santora’s Barber Shop in Fitchburg, Family Feeling
FITCHBURG -- More than 80 years after its founding, the red and blue stripes still spin outside Santora’s Barber Shop.
Co-owner Julie Robuccio said the business’ longevity is owed to seeing regulars and first-time customers alike as more than a head of hair to trim.
“To us, they’re not just clientele, they’re family,” she said.
Robuccio said she became a partner at Santora’s in 1984 with Mike Santora, the son of founder and master barber Biagio Santora.
From a family of beauticians, Robuccio said her aunt bought the business from Santora in the late 1970s then located on Water Street in Leominster.
Before the business was on Water Street, Santora’s was in the Whalom neighborhood, where you very well could have thrown a pair of scissors and hit a barber pole, she said.
Barbershops virtually lined the street as the close-cropped hair popular in mid-century America required weekly maintenance, she said.
“There was literally a barbershop on every street corner,” she said.
In the post-war era people began rejecting military-style trims popular in the 1950s, said Robuccio. The 1960s and ’70s brought unkempt coifs that required little maintenance.
By the 1980s, more women were beginning to become barbers, Robuccio said, an observation she owes to a potential limitation of being self-employed.
Men were expected to hold down jobs with more expansive benefits, like medical insurance for their families, than some small-business owners could affort, said Robuccio. Today, her staff is entirely female barbers.
In 2008, she partnered with Susan Clark and opened in a new location at 43 Whalon St. The space was larger, big enough to accommodate a play room to keep children occupied.
“We’re all mothers,” she said of her staff. “So we know how to work with kids.”
Today, after 35 years as a barber cutting hair for customers of all ages, she’s watched as what’s fashionable come full circle. She observed a resurgence in short “clipper cuts.”
“That’s the young trend coming up,” she said.
The trend has created an opening for new, often young barbers to get in the game, she said.
“They’ll survive,” she said of up-and-comers, “and they’ll find their niche, because there really is clientele for everyone.”
As her own longtime patrons grew up, she finds herself cutting the hair of their children’s children -- a multi-generational affair not unlike the original owners of Santora’s Barbershop.
“We really fashion ourselves as a family barber shop,” she said.