Remembered for his talent with scissors and comedy alike, Cheshire Barber Shop founder Joseph F. Mazzacane died at his Cheshire home on March 13 at the age of 94.
A funeral Mass was held for Mazzacane at St. Bridget of Sweden Parish on Saturday.
Mazzacane retired from the barbershop for health reasons about five years ago, though he continued to visit his old customers and daughter, Maria Mazzacane, who took his place behind the barber chair in 2016.
“This was his happy place, this is where he wanted to be,” said Maria Mazzacane.
Part of a lineage of barbers stretching back to Italy, Joe Mazzacane attended barber school after returning from service in the Second World War and opened Cheshire Barber Shop at 1042 South Main St. in 1951. He learned the trade growing up in the New Haven barbershop run by his father, Frank Mazzacane.
Maria Mazzacane began working with her father in the 1990s for around eight years and returned to the business in 2016 after he had a fall and required a hip replacement. Being able to work alongside her dad gave Mazzacane a new perspective on the strict Italian father she grew up knowing.
She discovered the sense of humor that flowed out of him whenever he had scissors in hand and the other side of the strong work ethic that kept him at the shop. He would start his day with a gym session and morning Mass before seeing as many as 25 customers a day and then following that with going to the houses of customers who had fallen too ill to drive to the shop.
Cheshire Barber Shop remained at its original location for the entirety of the 68 years that Joe Mazzacane ran the business, however, in 2019 a new landlord took ownership of the building and wanted to repurpose the space. Since there was no lease in place, Maria Mazzacane had to close the business for three months while searching for a new location, which she found at 910 South Main St.
Mazzacane is now preparing for another move as she has reached an agreement with her current landlord to allow an adjacent business to expand into the space she currently occupies.
The move will take Cheshire Barber Shop just over the Hamden line to 4133 Whitney Ave., 2.6 miles down Route 10. Mazzacane hopes to have the move completed by the start of April, once all the municipal inspections have been completed.
“I just have to look at this as a stepping stone to get a nice storefront,” Mazzacane said, adding that it’s bittersweet to leave Cheshire, even if she’ll only be a few miles down the road.
She finalized the lease with her new landlord the day before her father died, which she called “divine timing” to ease the grief of his death with the knowledge that she’ll be able to carry on his legacy.
Her father entrusting her with his business has been the biggest honor of her life, Maria Mazzacane said, and being able to remember her father with his former customers has been comforting to her. Since his passing, many of those customers have called in to offer their condolences or visited to deliver cards and share stories.
“It seems like yesterday that he was cutting hair,” said Bob Acampora, who has been patronizing Cheshire Barber Shop for around 30 years. He said Joe Mazzacane was a little guy who buzzed around the chair, with the energy of someone not a year over 60, even as he approached 90.
Acampora continued getting his haircuts from the shop even after Mazzacane retired because, he said, his daughter learned from the best and has carried on his legacy of cutting hair in the traditional style, which focuses on using a comb and scissors for everything but the shortest trims.
“When my customers say, ‘Your father would be proud of you,’ that’s the greatest compliment anyone could have ever given me,” Mazzacane said.
It was his love of people that kept Mazzacane working in the shop until he was 89, Maria Mazzacane said, and even as his health declined he continued attending Mass daily at St. Bridget Church.
“He seemed to be a well-rounded guy that was happy to be with people all the time,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Romans of St. Bridget.
His daily Mass attendance showed what was important to Mazzacane, who took his faith seriously and shared his love of God with those around him, Romans said.
“It just shows the priorities he had throughout all his life: faith, family and friends,” he said.