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Barbershop ambience pays tribute to heyday

To John Mooradian, hair salons can be summed up in one word: Frou-frou.

The 55-year-old barber wants people to think of his barbershop as something entirely different: old-fashioned.

With a red, white and blue barber pole spinning outside and Scott Joplin tickling the keys within, the shop at 3436 Deltona Blvd. is well on its way.

Plaza regulars have been surprised over the past three weeks to see red leather 1950s barber chairs and a replica of an old shaving mug rack, complete with mugs. Ragtime music drifts throughout the shop.

Master barbers Mooradian and Sam Sieber's now don striped dress shirts, bow ties and plastic derbies. (Authentic ones are on the way.) Mooradian is growing a handlebar mustache, and Sieber's wears a floor-length white apron.

"Everyone's got modern salons," said Mooradian, who has 33 years of barbering experience. "But men still like to go to a barber shop, so we figured we'd give them a old-fashioned place to come."

Mooradian said he and Sieber's redecorated to remind customers of the old days, although customers couldn't help noticing that the shop's redecoration coincided with a $2 price hike. Regular cuts now start at $8.

Another motivation fueling the shop's gimmick is betrayed by framed black-and-white copies of pictures from Ronald Barlow's The Vanishing American Barber Shop, which trim the walls. Although Mooradian and Sieber's exude decades of experience and talent, they are practicing a waning art.

Since the 1960s, when men started growing their hair longer, the traditional barbershop has become harder to find. Once a mainstay of American culture, where men regularly went to get a cut, shave, shoeshine and a manicure, not to mention news and gossip, many barbershops across America have struggled to keep up with the onslaught of unisex salons.

"Half of these kids don't know what a straight razor is," said Sieber's, 60, who has 41 years of experience. She is one of the North Suncoast's few female barbers, which is often unsettling to the primarily male clientele, although she's more experienced than Mooradian.

And in Florida, barbers have also have had to grapple with paying $100 more in licensing fees, thanks to the Florida Barbers' Board, the state group that regulates barbers and has been plagued by financial problems. The average cost of a men's cut has hovered between $8 and $10 throughout Florida.

Hernando County has about a dozen barbershops, several of which say they're doing well, largely because of the current popularity of shorter hairstyles. Most say their customer base is about half young, half old.

"I think there's more people looking for barbershops, but not as many out there," said Tom Allen owner of Suncoast Barbers, 4489 County Line Road.

Mooradian and Sieber's yearn for the days when barbershops were not just popular, but a local hangout. Since their redecoration, they have heard dozens of stories from retirees waxing eloquent about favorite barbershops from their youth.

Richard Dix came in Friday morning for a trim and described the four "snipperies" his family owned in the Baltimore area when he was younger. A snippery was a barbershop for children, Dix said.

"We had these live monkeys to entertain the children at the snipperies," said Dix, 78, of Spring Hill. "And these monkeys, they'd bite the hell out of you."

_Jennifer Liberto covers business and development in Hernando County and can be reached at 848-1434 or at libertosptimes.com.

Jesse Francis, 24, has his hair cut by Sam Sieber's while barber John Mooradian, right, takes a break Friday at the Plaza Barbershop at 3436 Deltona Blvd. in Spring Hill. Before he left for the Marine Corps, Francis came to the shop regularly for haircuts.

Mooradian cuts the hair of Charlie Taverna, 68. The barbers wear striped shirts, bow ties and plastic derbies, and Mooradian, who has 33 years of experience, is growing a handlebar moustache to complement the motif.

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