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In Oldsmar, barbers are part haircutter, part counselor

OLDSMAR — Wanted: A master of buzz cuts, hot shaves and gentle (but firm) advice.

The folks at Oldsmar Family Barber Shop have searched nearly a year for the right person. They've asked around town and posted on Craigslist. Recently, they've stopped running ads for their red brick salon on St. Petersburg Drive because there are too many customers and not enough hands.

"It's difficult to find a good barber," said Izzy Cintron, who each day serves 20 to 30 clients. "You've got to be a barber and a psychologist. You've got to really listen to people, build relationships with people, so they keep coming back."

Perhaps the requirements are too lofty or archaic in the age of mall salons, he said.

"We have high standards here," Cintron said. "It's part of what makes this place special."

The building that houses the Oldsmar Family Barber Shop was once the only gas station for miles around, said owner Louis Lanni, whose father was also a barber. The building was erected nearly a century ago and requires frequent repair.

Haircuts start at $6 for senior citizens and cap at $10 for adult scissor trims. The walls are covered in posters, symbols of then and now: Grace Kelly, Rihanna, Elvis, the Indiana University football team, Frank Sinatra, Tony the Tiger.

"We're giving people something they can't get anywhere else," said Lanni, who with his wife bought the 1,200-square-foot building about seven years ago. "That's why so many customers come back with friends. They get the full, old-fashioned barbershop treatment, complete with getting your ears and nose hairs trimmed."

On a recent weekday, two East Lake High School students wandered in. Josh Beacom, 18, a regular, brought his friend Stephen Wankat, 17, for a quick buzz cut.

They lingered near the Xbox and chatted with barber Joseph William Newton about "senioritis" and college plans.

"This place is pretty cool," Wankat said.

Newton, one of four staff barbers, said a new employee's weekly pay starts between $400 and $500. But he added that in a shop with a putting green, the Xbox (with Halo and Grand Theft Auto) and discounted back massages, the tipping is generous.

"We're like a family here," Newton said. "Some call it a man cave, but ladies can get their hair done here. Kids are welcome to come play with toys. It's a fun environment."

Newton, who searches for talent at local beauty schools, has tips for job applicants:

The barber must be an artist, he said, with hands steady enough to shave zigzags or a lightning bolt. The barber must know how to properly heat shaving cream, to avoid burns or minor explosions. The barber must be fluent in buzz cut slang.

"And you talk about every subject: cars, fishing, politics, religion," Newton said. "One of the most popular is woman troubles."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at dpaquette@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4224.

.if you go

Oldsmar Family Barber Shop

The Oldsmar Family Barber Shop at 700 St. Petersburg Drive W is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. The phone number is (813) 925-1900.

In Oldsmar, barbers are part haircutter, part counselor 05/07/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 11:40am]
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