Sunday June 17, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Joseph Livecchi gets nostalgic when he talks about his decision to join his father at his Fenn Street barber shop in the 1960s.

He remembers the skill his father, Charles, had when shaving a customer's face -- "smooth as a baby's bottom," Joe said this week, while sitting in his classic, leather barber chair inside the Royal Barber Service on Fenn Street.

Joe said he and his dad made a good team -- he more skilled with scissors and a comb, his father better with the blade.

Charles Livecchi, born in New York City and raised in Italy, kept working until the week he died in 1982. Joe couldn't bring himself to part with the money his ailing father made from the two haircuts that week, instead storing it under a drawer in an old cash register.

Now, after 30 years of working alone, Joe Livecchi, 70, finds his career coming full circle as he enters into another family partnership.

Livecchi's son Thomas, 35, decided more than a year ago to leave behind his music career in Nashville, Tenn., and he told his father he wanted to be a barber. After eight months of training at a barber school in Worcester, Thomas has spent the past two months as an apprentice under his dad.

Joe Livecchi calls it the best Father's Day present he could ever ask for.

"It is a pure joy to be working with him," Joe said as his son sat beside him. "I couldn't be any happier with my life."

Joe gushes about his son's emerging skills. He said the partnership brings back memories of his time with his own father, and Thomas has even brought back the shaves and facials Charles Livecchi was known for.

"There's such a nostalgia that it's unbelievable," Joe said. "It's absolutely euphoric."

Thomas, who grew up in Alabama but spent his summers in his father's shop, said he remembers meeting all his dad's customers -- most of which are still regulars -- when he was young. Even as he pursued his music career, Thomas always worried about what would happen to the business after his father stopped working and wondered where those same men who greeted him as a child would turn.

He said he's happy that won't be a concern any more and proud to be the third generation of Livecchis working at 412 Fenn St.

"It was a sense of relief to know it wasn't going to end with him," said Thomas Livecchi.

Joe, who says he would "wither up and die" if he wasn't cutting hair, joked that he'll have to start being nicer to his son in preparation for the day Thomas eventually takes over.

The pair, who seem to be constantly and lovingly ribbing each other, remember the nicknames Joe used to have for his son -- "future garbage man" and "the world's best convenience store clerk."

As the two sit alongside each other in the shop that was converted from a living room when Charles Livecchi purchased it in the 1940s, the career jokes have subsided. The man who takes such pride in his craft elicited a smile from his son as he announced with a sense of unabashed fatherly pride the newest nickname for Thomas Livecchi: "emerging barber."

To reach Trevor Jones:
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