“Twenty-six hundred weeks— say it that way and it doesn’t sound that bad,” Dino Ditizii says, with a laugh, not taking attention away from his work.
It's the same work he’s done in the same place for the last 50 years, the Verona Barber.
The sign that hangs across Dino's Verona Barber Shop at 478 Bloomfield Ave. is to celebrate Ditizii’s half a century cutting hair, not the shop itself.
“All the barbers have been dying off and you can’ beat a barber,” says Benny Aruzzo from South Jersey. “I remember as a kid there was a shop on every corner.”
You can’t beat a barber because, like friends, all his customers talk since most are neighbors or have just been coming there for years. Ditizii cuts hair next to the old-style register he still uses, as each customer comes in, they all say to the back, “Hey Dino,” and still, at 73-years-old, he remembers everyone’s name.
“I come here cause it’s like neighborhood thing,” says Bill O’Connor of Essex Fells. O’Connor has been coming since he was a kid, except for a short time when he didn’t live in the area.
Two other barber chairs have been left unused by any barber for the last 15 years, leaving Ditizii the only one to cut hair and the chairs have just become the more comfortable waiting seats.
“I drive 60 miles round trip now because I won’t let anyone else touch my head,” Chris Kallianes of Warren says as he walks on his homemade cane to one of the more comfortable seats. “If I stop showing up you’ll know I’m dead.”
“Chris how long you been coming here?” Ditizzi asks through his scissors.
“How old am I?” Kallianes replies. “I’m 85 right, so I’ve been coming here 80 years.”
Ditizii owns the place now, and has since the 1980s when the original owner, Michael Tucci retired. He only charges $10 a hair cut to give back to the people who have been coming for years he says.
“I learned in a shop that didn’t have a name,” Ditizii explains, recanting old memories from Italy in the 1950s. “There were no schools then there. You just went to a shop you thought you’d like and learned.”
He works off of all walk-ins customers, he says, and it shows because as he's doing one quick hair cut, five more customers walk in. And almost all repeat customers that have been coming for years and some, like Kallianes, longer than Ditizii has even worked there.
Moving over from Italy when he was 25-years-old he was just looking for a better life. With no more real connections, after his parents died, he says he doesn’t go back and jokes that it too expensive anyway.
“I feel as good as when I started,” he says, with a strong smile, holding onto old clippers he had to learn on before electric ones. “Fifty short years here. Two weeks down to another 50.”