Joe Commisso was more than just a barber. To his customers and family in North Hempstead Town, his friendship and kindness made him a cut above and deserving of a recent honor.
For nearly 40 years, Commisso trimmed the hair of generations of customers at his barbershop on 425 Plandome Rd. in Manhasset, becoming a community fixture until he died on Jan. 30, at the age of 86.
Now the stretch of Plandome Road between Orchard Street and Gaynor Avenue that housed his shop will bear his name.
Two weeks ago, the North Hempstead Town Board approved the designation of a secondary street sign, Joe ‘the Barber’ Commisso Road. Its installment is planned for early 2021, officials said.
His two daughters described Commisso as their best friend and a family man who poured his heart into his barbershop, which opened April 1, 1980. The business closed following his death.
"The barbershop was my father’s heartbeat," said Maria Commisso, of Roslyn. "My father was there at 7 o’clock in the morning and worked until 8 o’clock at night. … He waved to every person that went by. … My father was a permanent fixture in the window."
Commisso was an immigrant from Reggio Calabria, Italy, whose life was an embodiment of the American dream, his family said. In 1961, the 27-year-old arrived in the United States with nothing but a few dollars and a pair of scissors.
"He came to this country with nothing," said his other daughter, Rosa Fazzolari, of Manhasset Hills. "He succeeded with his life being an American dream."
Commisso married his wife, also named Rosa, in 1962 and worked as a barber at several locations, including a barbershop on Plandome Road. He and his brother-in-law, Joseph Loccisano, eventually bought the business and it became his longtime shop.
The shop soon became a hub where patrons traded life stories and found out which plumber or electrician to hire. Some called Commisso the "unofficial mayor of Manhasset," his family and former customers said.
"Every three or four weeks, I’d go [get a haircut] and ask Joe what’s new on Plandome Road," said Bill Miller, 84, of Manhasset, one of Commisso’s earliest customers. "He had all the information. He was like a newspaper."
Chuck Kambourian, 93, of Manhasset, said Commisso was genuinely interested in others and remembered the names of his children after he mentioned them during a haircut.
"He would ask about them by name," Kambourian said. "I suspect he knew everything about everybody who sat in his chair. He had a sincere concern about people and their interests."
Michael Anglin, of Port Washington, a customer for four decades, remembered telling Commisso when his children were born. When Anglin’s mother died, he said Commisso attended the funeral. And when he was out of work, Anglin recalled jokingly telling Commisso that he needed "a good haircut to get a job."
The barbershop was a place where he felt like he was part of a family, Anglin said.
"He was a professional barber. But more than that, he was a friend to the whole community," said Anglin, who said he walks down Plandome Road every day and misses Commisso’s smiling face.
Once the street sign is up, "it would be a memory of a friend," he said.
THE LIFE & LOVES OF JOE COMMISSO
- He was born in Reggio Calabria, Italy, on Oct. 30, 1933.
- He opened his barbershop on Plandome Road on April 1, 1980.
- He died Jan. 30, 2020, at the age of 86.
- He is survived by his wife, Rosa Commisso, daughters Maria Commisso and Rosa Fazzolari, son-in-law Rocco Fazzolari and grandson Domenick Fazzolari.