Haircuts with a cup of hospitality
The first thing that most customers of the Regal Barbershop notice are the scissors. No matter the requested style— a fade, a crew cut or a classic taper — it’s the scissors, not the clippers, that come out.
That’s because the barbers, brothers George and Sam Jacob, have been handling the main tool of their trade since they were young teens – learning at the side of their father, Farid, a barber in Aleppo, Syria. And since immigrating to the U.S. in 2014, they have been showing off their skills to customers who are both grateful and amazed.
“Sam does a great job,” said Tom Dwyer of Malta, who was getting a cut recently. “There is no place like this around. I absolutely will keep coming back.”
Dwyer is not the only one. The online reviews for George and Sam, who are 50 and 43, respectively, are 100 percent raves. Most people say it’s the best cut ever; others say they drive from New York City and New Jersey just to get a cut from George and Sam. The shop adheres to its motto: A cut above.
“It’s an art,” George said as he sat down with his brother Sam and their eldest brother, Joseph, who is a Niskayuna lawyer who helps translate for his brothers. “One customer in New York City said he waited his entire life to find me.”
But it’s not just the skill that the brothers share. It’s also what Joseph calls Syrian hospitality. Before the cut even begins, customers are served a complimentary espresso, beer or shot of bourbon. During the holidays, homemade Syrian cookies, stuffed with pistachios and generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar, are also offered.
“We wanted to build a welcoming place because we want this to be a special treat for men,” said Joseph, an immigration lawyer who helped his brothers flee the ongoing civil war in their homeland. “Hospitality is very big in Syria. If you go to someone’s house, you have to stay for lunch, dinner or at least for a coffee and pastry. It’s a food culture.”
The cost of the cut, $30, is slightly more than other shops. The brothers say the cost is in part because they use high-end, quality lotions such as Jack Black. They also offer hot shaves and razor shaves on the back of the neck. Women are welcome, too.
“It’s even more important to women to have a good cut,” Joseph said.
Sam handles the scissors with speed and is adept on the latest styles. George is known for the time he takes with his customers, asking them along the way if they are satisfied.
Joseph came to the U.S. to join his wife, a physician. His mother died before the war. But once the Syrian conflict unfolded, the family barber shop in Aleppo had to be closed.
“The stress killed my father,” Joseph said. “The war is so devastating to us, emotionally.”
And then George’s apartment was destroyed, reduced to a pile of rubble. Joseph knew it was time to bring his brothers here.
When they first came, Joseph tried to establish his brothers in New Jersey. But without their high school transcripts, which were also destroyed in the war, they were unable to be licensed by the state. New York was less restrictive. Once they got their state licenses, George worked in New York City cutting hair in an upscale shop that served ambassadors and celebrities. Sam found a job in a shop in Nyack. But the brothers wanted their own place, like they had in Aleppo.
“We wanted the perfect shop in the perfect place,” Joseph said. “We found it here.”
They opened Regal Barbershop at 35 Van Dam St. in Saratoga Springs on July 29.
The brothers, who are Christian, also feel they found the perfect country.
“People complain about how immigrants are treated,” Joseph said. “But if you have a skill and can do a job, you will be welcomed. We love it here. We will build a future here for our family. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, kind and caring. We have no plans on ever going back.”