Layton Hunt has been cutting hair since 1961 in Locust Valley. He's full of energy and stories and says even though he sold his shop to someone else during the pandemic he has no plans on retiring anytime soon. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday/D. Singh

When the pandemic hit, Layton Hunt decided his Locust Valley barbershop was ready for new ownership, even if his hands weren’t ready to give up shearing the boys and men of the North Shore.

“I want to work as long as I am able to do work,” Hunt, 88, said Friday at the shop. “That’s all that matters.”

Little has changed since Hunt bought the barbershop from its previous owner in 1966. Someone getting his hair cut there today will swivel in the same red and cream-colored barber chairs that came with the shop.

In 2020, he sold Hunt’s Hair Styling to Brian Basile, 40, who also owns a barbershop in Glen Cove.

“I got up one morning and COVID-19 came,” Hunt said. “It was bad; a lot of people went out of business.”

Basile had been a Hunt fan for more than a decade, stopping in the barbershop to listen to his stories and enjoy his company.

“I always told him, ‘If you ever decide that you’re going to leave, I want to keep it,’” Basile said. “ ‘I don’t want anybody to take it over.’”

Hunt said he agreed 20 years ago that if he decided to sell, he’d give Basile the first chance to buy. He kept his word, and now the two men cut hair side-by-side.

Although technically, Basile is now Hunt’s boss, he doesn’t see it that way.

“I want to be the caretaker of the institution that’s been here for 100 years,” Basile said as he cut hair Friday. “I want to keep it exactly the same.”

Hunt cuts hair four days a week at the shop on the corner of Birch Hill Road and Buckram Road, and Basile splits his time between his two shops.

“I thought he was going to retire,” Basile said. “He works more than me.”

That's Hunt in a photo from the late '60 or early '70s, on...

That's Hunt in a photo from the late '60 or early '70s, on the barbershop wall. Credit: Drew Singh

Hunt, who said he is Cherokee, grew up as one of seven siblings on a farm in North Carolina. After serving in the Army with his twin brother in Korea in a combat engineering brigade in the 1950s, he said, he ventured to the New York City region, where one of his brothers had joined the Merchant Marine and was living in Great Neck.

Hunt started cutting hair more than 60 years ago. He said he drove a sanitation truck in Roslyn while going to barber school in the city on the GI Bill. He and his former wife had two children, and in 1961, he started working as a barber in Locust Valley, at a different shop.

One thing that has changed is the price. In 1966, a boy's haircut was $1.25 and a man’s was $1.50. Today a cut is $26.

While the shop caters to locals, Hunt has had a brush with celebrity. A little more than a decade ago, he said, he gave actor Brad Pitt a haircut. Pitt — who came in with his then-wife Angelina Jolie, who was shooting a film at a soundstage in Bethpage — attracted a lot of local buzz. But Hunt just saw a head of hair.

“I didn’t know who he was,” Hunt said. “My girlfriend told me.”

He’d have no trouble recognizing Bruce Springsteen if he ever stopped by for a trim — he said he’s seen The Boss in concert more than 60 times before tickets got too expensive.

As long he can cut hair, Hunt, who survived two bouts with cancer, said he’ll keep doing it.

“I enjoy talking to people,” he said. “I like people and they like me.”

The secret of success? “Got to be good to people and try to be happy,” Hunt said. “That’s all that counts.”

Basile said he loves working with him. 

"Layton is always in a good mood," Basile said. "His famous quote is, 'It doesn't cost nothing to be nice.' "

Hunt chimed in, "It doesn't cost one cent." 

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