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DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Hair may recede, but barbershop stands its ground



Published: Thu, January 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Fancy hair salons are OK, but sometimes, a man's just gotta go to a barber.

For 42 years, Bill Kosco has counted on it, cutting hair in a barbershop at the corner of Sciota and Market in Boardman -- first as a barber, then, as its owner.

Today is no exception. A gentleman walks across the fading gray and white linoleum tiled floor and sits in Kosco's chair. Kosco, with wavy steel gray hair, flings an apron into the air and drapes it across the man's chest. Hair clippers start to buzz and carefully glide across the sides and back of the man's head -- the only places where there is hair.

"When I was young," Kosco said, "college wasn't that big a deal. You took up a trade or went to work in the mills. I took up a trade."

History: Kosco attended Pittsburgh Barber College. "[Barbering] is clean work with regular hours. No night turns. Not like working in the mills," he explained. After a year and a half of training, Kosco started looking for a position. The shop on the corner of Sciota and Market had an opening.

"I didn't know if I'd be in it a long time when I started," Kosco said, "but then, years and years roll by."

Dom's Barbershop first opened its doors as Bertrando's 65 years ago under owner Jim Bertrando, who passed it to his brother-in-law Dom Cafaro when Betrando retired. Two years ago, Kosco had the opportunity to buy the shop he had worked in for four decades.

"Dom was going to retire and asked me if I wanted to take over, and he would still work here part time," Kosco recalled. While it's not exactly a "family business," Kosco has been there so long, it feels like it.

"Now, Jim Bertrando, the son of the original owner, works here. Jack Ferreri," he said, pointing at the barber working on a man in the fourth chair, "his dad was a barber, too."

"We've got a lot of the same customers, and we have generations of customers. We've got kids coming in now, and we used to cut some of their grandfathers' hair. Really, they're more like friends than customers," Kosco added.

The shop: Behind Kosco is a Norman Rockwell picture. It seems perfect for a four-chair barbershop on a neighborhood corner, so unlike the chains that inhabit strip malls. A Youngstown State University Penguins poster adorns another wall and a TV runs in the corner.

"People used to have more time," he said. "Now people are more hurried. Years ago, they used to come in and sit and read the magazines and talk. A few customers still do that, but not like it used to be."

That's not the only thing that has changed through the years. "We still give shaves, but not as much as we used to," Kosco said. "And we used to give more facials."

What's next: At 63, Kosco is starting to make retirement plans of his own. He'd like to sell the shop and, much as Dom did, "work two or three days a week for the next owner." Who that owner will be, well, Kosco just said, "We're working on it."

"It would make me feel better if the shop is always run the same way it always has been, with regular hours," Kosco continued. "[And] treating the customers in the same friendly way we always have."

His own children are not in the running, however. "My son is a civil engineer in Cleveland and my daughter teaches in Austintown," Kosco said.

A few snips of the scissors and Kosco's customer is done. His hair and eyebrows are perfect. "It's not that hard to do," the customer cracks, referring to his long-since receded hairline. "You know, I don't want to say anything against women, but sometimes, a man's just gotta go to a man to get his hair cut. A barber doesn't try to change you. He just does what you ask."

Hopefully, that tradition will carry on in a small barbershop tucked in a corner in Boardman.

murphy@vindy.com




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