Frank Cannalonga has been a Belmont barber for the past half century.
And if you count the first ten years spent with his brother-in-law’s shop in Watertown, it’s been 60 years “cutting hair,” Cannalonga said.
“I have been here 50 years at this barber chair. That’s a lot of standing,” said the 84-year-old Robinwood Road resident.
As satirist Fran Lebowitz observed that “you’re only as good as your last haircut,” then you couldn’t come to a better place than Frank’s Barber Shop at 113 Trapelo Rd. across the busy street from Starbucks and the town’s municipal parking lot.
Frank or his long-time partner, Fred Sacco, sits you down and gets to work, with a razor and scissors, sometimes both in the same hand. They show the efficiency of more than a century as barbers, cleanly making the unruly presentable with a preference to the “high and tight” style that has become fashionable again.
On one recent Saturday, a Watertown kid’s thatched thick hair is buzz cut into shape.
“He’s one big cow lick,” said the pre-teen’s mother to Frank as Fred puts the finishing touches on a regular, explaining he can now go home to his wife.
“I don’t know if I want to now,” he said laughing.
Not a “hipster” barber salons with names such as Gentlemens Choice or The Barbershop Lounge where cuts run up to $50, Frank’s doesn’t have on-line appointment scheduling (“Oh no,” said Frank when asked if the store has a Web page. “They know when we are open.”), leather couches or alternative music booming in the background.
Just a couple of threadbare chairs where customers or an appreciative parent can sit and talk in the two-chair establishment. A television is in the back “when the game is on,” lollipops nestled adjacent to the cash register at the ready for anyone who needs one, a plaque of appreciation from the Lions Club and a family photo on the shelf.
And the prices: $16 for the “regular”, three more of the “razor” cut. You can get your hair styled but “most come in for the regular,” said Cannalonga.
This coming Saturday, June 21, Frank’s will close like it always does around 4:30 p.m. but only after the last customer has been dusted with talcum powder and Frank rings in the sale.
It will also be the final Saturday for Frank’s, as the traditional barbershop shuts its door for the last time.
“And that will be it. I’ll come by a few days later to clean up the place and that will be it,” said Cannalonga.
In a trend that is becoming more familiar in Belmont this spring, as the state economy has recovered and the town awaits major development and infrastructure projects to start, commercial leases are either shooting skyward or existing businesses are not given the opportunity to renew their leases as landlords sights have turned to more lucrative enterprises.
Customers still park in the lot at what was once One Stop Market at the corner of Pleasant Street and Brighton Street only to be surprised to find the long-time convenience store locked and empty.
“Thanks for everything!” reads the sign at the front door.
Others are feeling the pinch. Gustazo Cuban Restaurant & Cafe at School and Trapelo is leaving for Waltham while other mom and pop shops wait to see what their owners are thinking.
Frank’s is one of those casualty of Belmont’s changing commercial scene.
“Well, I wasn’t quite ready. I could have worked another year or two before getting out. But I wasn’t even offered the chance so that’s where it is,” said Cannalonga.
Frank’s landlord, Harry Misakian of Misakian Belmont LLC, which owns the commercial block that runs along Trapelo onto Common Street, could not be contacted.
Frank’s and his neighbors including the Christian Science Reading Room and are leaving months before the first shovels are anticipated to hit the ground for the construction of Cushing Village, the 186,000 square foot development that will bring nearly 35,000 square feet of new retail and more than 110 high-end residential units to Cushing Square, across the street from Frank’s.
Rumors have an up-scale man’s salon occupying Frank’s spot.
What he will miss the most is the customers, “because after 50 years you build up quite a few friends,” said Cannalonga.
Sacco will soon be working for “our competitor across the way, a nice kid,” he said.
But there is no bitterness from Frank on leaving before he had hoped.
“It’s been a good run,” said Cannalonga.