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The pandemic paused his business. So he started a mobile barbershop.

When Mike Rizzo was cut from his job due to the pandemic, he hit the road in a 27-seat bus retrofitted into a one-chair barbershop on wheels. Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware

Need a haircut but afraid to go out to a barbershop because of the pandemic? Mike Rizzo of Farmingville will bring his barbershop to you. 

Get Chopped Mobile Barber Bus is rolling around Suffolk County delivering skin fades, undercuts and side shaves to those in need.

“When coronavirus hit and we were forced to shut down and stop working, I felt life was going to start changing,” says Rizzo, 41. “I thought it would be cool to get a big enough vehicle where I could set up a barbershop inside. Going to people’s houses was the perfect scenario.”

ON THE BUS

Rizzo purchased a double-doored 27-seat passenger bus, removed all the seats and built an entire barbershop that’s 25-feet long and 8-feet tall. The bus is complete with a barber chair, hardwood floor, tinted windows, a waiting area for parents and even a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game cabinet for kids to play on.

Rizzo, who took an online course to understand COVID-19 safety precautions, says he looks to limit the number of people on the bus at any given time. “Everyone has to wear masks and sanitize their hands before they get on,” he says.

Rizzo promotes his business on Facebook and Instagram, but he mainly gets clients via word-of-mouth.

“Every week is different. I’m getting new people every day,” he says. “In one day, I typically cut the hair of 10 to 15 people. Any type of hair, I cut it. It doesn’t matter what it is.”

In 2015, Rizzo was chosen to be one of 30 barbers out of 30,000 to appear on Cedric the Entertainer’s “Cedric’s Barber Battle” reality show and he even appeared in a commercial for MSG Network in 2018. Both showed off his special skill to create designs in people’s hair.

“I do sports team logos, cartoon characters, numbers, pattern designs, you name it,” says Rizzo. “I’m into art, so I simply incorporated that into hair. When they give me free range, I love to get creative.”

CLIENT CARE

Prior to going mobile, Rizzo built up a steady clientele at Mica D’s Barbershop in Ronkonkoma for 17 years where Anthony Ilvento, 37, of Centereach has been a customer for over 15 years.

“Rizzo has a cool style and he’s a personable guy,” says Ilvento, who gets a fade on the side but keeps his hair longer on top. “The barber bus experience is amazing. It’s an interesting solution to a modern-day problem.”

Rizzo is known for connecting with kids being a big Yankees fan and collecting movie memorabilia. He tries to make haircuts easier on parents.

“It’s very convenient because I’m a working mom,” says Eileen D’Agostino, 41, of Centereach, who brings her sons, 10-year-old Chase, 8-year-old Cameron and 4-year-old Declan, to Rizzo for haircuts. 

Rizzo even knows how to calm down a scared child. “I’m a big kid at heart,” he says. “I let them see my haircutting tools so they’re not nervous. Sometimes I’ll let them cut my hair so they’ll let me cut their hair.”

All three sons of Frank Mathews from Centereach got their first haircuts from Rizzo and now, at ages. 20, 17 and 15, they still do today.

“Mike treats you like family,” says Mathews, 40, who is also one of Rizzo’s clients. “He makes you feel special from when you sit in his chair to when you are walking out with powder on your neck.”

When asked about his experience in the mobile barbershop, Mathews says, “It’s phenomenal. Going inside you don’t expect to see a full barbershop but he did it. Mike is very passionate about the experience he wants to bring to people. I can’t wait to see where this goes.”

GET CHOPPED MOBILE BARBER BUS

WHEN/WHERE 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Saturday throughout Suffolk County, by appointment only

INFO Prices range from $30 to $45 for cuts; shaves start at $15. facebook.com/GetChoppedmobilebarberbus, @RizzoScissorhands

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