A straight razor shave and a great haircut aren‚??t new trends at Sartorio & Sons Barber Shop (25 W. Market St., Wilkes-Barre). It‚??s been business as usual for the last 56 years.
The business was born of father Frank Sartorio Sr.‚??s work with a barber located at 15 S. Franklin St. after his arrival in the United States from Tunisia in 1956. The patriarch of Italian descent was cutting hair at age 13, his sons explained.
Learning how to administer a proper shave with a straight razor through his time in that Wilkes-Barre shop, the 85-year-old has now passed the trade on to his sons Pete, 58, and Aldo, 54, along with his grandson, Frank Sartorio, Jr., 31.
The specialty service is one that Sartorio‚??s is happy to offer.
‚??In the old country, we had more shaves than haircuts,‚?Ě Frank Sr. said. ‚??Over here, the barbers don‚??t want to do it because they spend too much time with the razor, and it costs more. They don‚??t want it, but we love it.‚?Ě
It‚??s easy to feel like family as the three generations of Sartorios crack wise against each other.
When asked why straight razor shaves are growing in popularity, Frank Jr. chimed in.
‚??If you‚??re letting an 85-year-old man shave your face, it‚??s like a thrill seeking thing. It‚??s like bungee jumping,‚?Ě he joked with his grandfather.
In truth, the service is a ‚??cheap luxury‚?Ě that is experiencing a boom in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Pittston-based Sartorios agreed.
‚??Anybody can go home and shave quickly with their Acras and everything else. We could never compete with how fast and how easy you can do it,‚?Ě Pete said. ‚??When you come here and you‚??re getting a shave, you‚??re getting a hot towel and relaxing. You‚??re being pampered.‚?Ě
Don‚??t be fooled by the word ‚??pampered,‚?Ě though. This is not a beauty shop.
‚??This is a man‚??s way of getting pampered,‚?Ě Pete continued. ‚??You‚??re getting an old-time shave, and you come out feeling great when you leave, which you can‚??t do for yourself.‚?Ě
‚??College kids are starting to get it more and more, too,‚?Ě added Frank Jr. ‚??That‚??s more recent, though. When I first started working here, you guys were barely doing any college kids, shave-wise.‚?Ě
Aldo joked that a stop at Sartorio‚??s is good for more than eliminating a five o‚??clock shadow.
‚??It also helps get rid of a hangover, and college kids get hangovers,‚?Ě the Meshoppen resident said of the hot towel treatment.
The shave starts with a lubricating cream ‚?? ‚??The razor has to glide across the face,‚?Ě Pete explained. ‚??The less friction, the better. It also softens the beard.‚?Ě ‚?? followed by a hot towel, hot lather, and the shave itself. Disappearing cream helps clean up any razor burn, and the process ends with another hot towel.
‚??Then we tell them to go home!‚?Ě Frank Sr. joked.
The shave, lasting an average of 30 minutes, costs $15. Add a haircut for another $15 for a new look in about an hour.
A stable of regular customers keeps the chairs at Sartorio‚??s full, and the family keeps conversation lively.
‚??You can come in here and forget about what‚??s outside. We give them our problems so that way they can forget about their own,‚?Ě Aldo said, jokingly.
Working with family, he added, is a blessing.
‚??I can‚??t imagine it any other way.‚?Ě
Pete spoke in amazement about his father‚??s return to the shop four months after undergoing brain surgery in February.
‚??Look at him. He‚??s better than ever,‚?Ě Pete said.
‚??That‚??s because they finally put one in,‚?Ě quipped longtime employee Maggie Domant. Domant has worked at Sartorio‚??s since 1989 following the closure of her Fashion Beauty Salon inside the now defunct Hotel Sterling.
Frank Sr. never imagined sharing the trade with family when he started learning it all in 1956.
‚??It‚??s a pleasure to work with them,‚?Ě he said.
‚??My dad is the shop,‚?Ě Pete said. ‚??Even when he leaves the shop, he‚??s still here. When you have a guy like that that started the shop, everyone respects him. He‚??s amazing.‚?Ě
Sartorio & Sons Barber Shop (25 W. Market St., Wilkes-Barre), Tues.-Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Walk-ins welcome, appointments available at 570.824.2325. $15 straight razor shave, $15 haircut. Ten percent discount for college students.