Founded by a returning World War II veteran, Cheshire Barber Shop is celebrating 70 years of scissors passed down through generations and haircuts given over laughter.
“The drive comes from keeping my family heritage alive,” said Maria Mazzacane Perez, who took over the family business from her father, Joe Mazzacane, in 2016.
Coming from a lineage of barbers, which stretches back six generations to haircutters in Rome, Maria Mazzacane said her business is supported by generations of customers who appreciate traditional haircuts. Customers regularly ask how her now-94-year-old father is doing and regale her with the years of stories they share.
After being discharged from the military in 1946, Joe Mazzacane went to barber school and opened Cheshire Barber Shop at 1042 South Main St. five years later. Well into his 80s, he kept his routine of waking early to go to the gym and morning Mass and seeing as many as 25 customers a day at the shop. Some days, after the shop closed, he would visit customers who were no longer able to make the drive for health reasons.
Maria Mazzacane began working for her father in the 1990s, staying for around eight years before stepping away for health reasons. During that time, she was able to see first-hand that customers also came back because of the jokes and laughter that filled the shop.
“My father was a grumpy, loud Italian father … so working alongside him, I got to see a whole new side of him and I gained a lot of respect for him,” she said. “ … Getting to work with him was one of the best things to ever happen to me.”
Mazzacane stopped working when a fall required him to undergo a hip replacement in 2016, but when he felt well enough he often came in to visit and talk with his old customers.
“My father had planned on dying with his scissors in his hands,” Mazzacane said.
Since taking over the business, Maria Mazzacane had to move the shop once already after a new landlord took ownership of the building. Since her father didn’t have a formal lease, she was forced to close for three months while on the search that would bring her up the street to 910 South Main St. in July 2019. She’s preparing to pack up and begin the search again as her current landlord is seeking to renovate and repurpose the space she’s renting, she said.
Since both she and her father are longtime Cheshire residents, she’s determined to remain in town and is searching for a small commercial space available for her shop, which now takes up only 380 square feet.
Her business has also been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which is hitting her especially hard since many of her customers are elderly, she said. At least six have died from COVID-19 and many have begun cutting their hair at home to save money and stay safe.
“It’s not just a paycheck – it was entrusted to me by my family,” Mazzacane said. “ … I’m going to do my best to keep it going.”
Cheshire Chamber of Commerce President Yetta Augur said mainstay businesses like Cheshire Barber Shop that have weathered decades form the base of the community and that residents should rally around them in difficult times.
“These businesses that have been in business for a very long time and have longevity are really the base of our community … It’s time I think for everyone now to support them and get through this pandemic,” she said.
Town Economic Development Coordinator Jerry Sitko said their longevity shows the resilience of their owners and the support residents have for local businesses.
“It also provides some stability here, too. There’s a history to these businesses,” he said. “It shows that, despite all the changes that have occurred over the years, there is stability in town.”