Polaroid pictures of children getting their first haircuts are tucked in the corners of mirrors at Bart’s Barber Shop in Sea Cliff. Even more pictures are piled inside three small boxes on a table.
The shop’s owner, Joseph Mazzeo, waves out the front door at customers walking past his shop, while leaning on one of three hair-cutting chairs that date back to the 1930s.
“It has been sort of under the radar all these years,” said Mazzeo, 69, of Sea Cliff. “I’m a one-man band here. I don’t have too much time to spend on each person, but the truth is men are a little bit different than women. It’s different than hanging out in a beauty parlor. They want to get in and get out.”
The barbershop has served the Sea Cliff community for more than 75 years. Mazzeo’s father, Bart, established it in 1934, and the father-and-son duo worked side-by-side for almost 16 years from 1962 until his father retired due to illness.
Mazzeo took over in 1977 when his father began his battle with throat cancer, but counts this year as the shop’s 50th year open under the ownership of both him and his father.
“He did set me up here,” Mazzeo said of his father, who died in 1980. “He didn’t need me to work, but I was married and had a family, so if it wasn’t for my dad’s generosity I wouldn’t have had a job.”
Mazzeo later added, “He came from a time when people didn’t give out compliments easily, but one thing he did say was that I give a good flat-top cut, short on one side and flat on top.”
After one of his newer customers, Richard Vonderlieth, tore his Achilles, he began walking in the area to build back muscle and happened upon the barber shop.
“I come in on my lunch break to get my usual flat-top cut,” said Vonderlieth, 47, of Bethpage. “The first thing I noticed about this place was how eclectic the walls are.”
Autographed pictures of “Sopranos” cast members hang from the walls -- unfortuntely, Mazzeo never got any of them in for a haircut -- among the owner’s family photos and signs reading, “Nobody can please everybody... but we try,” and “If you leave you lose your turn.”
Mazzeo said he enjoys how busy it gets on Saturdays and how unique the customers are.
“Saturday is showtime. You have to be ready for whatever comes in and ready to roll with it. We all like to think that other people are the crazy ones, but in fact, we’re all a little off-beat, which makes things really nice. I’ve gotten as many as 30 coming in on a Saturday.”
On July 15, Mazzeo is celebrating his 50 years of ownership at The Creative Arts Studio of Sea Cliff from 3-6 p.m.
“When you start cutting the son’s son’s hair, that’s when you know it’s been a while,” Mazzeo said. “It’s gotten to the point where I feel like it’s more of my responsibility than it is about the money.”