BETHEL, Conn. -- One day in 1965, 19-year-old Nicky Valluzzo got into his white Chevy Impala and drove over to Zoel's Barber Shop at 145 Greenwood Ave. in Bethel to inquire about a job -- which he got.
More than 50 years later, Valluzzo is still working in the same location and is now owner of the business, which he renamed Nicky's Haircutters.
"I knew the owner's daughter, Doris, who I went to school with. She mentioned her father, Zoel Pellerin, was a barber, and I was looking for a job," recalled Valluzzo. "When I came in, he said he was planning to retire and if I started working there, he would sell the shop to me. -- which he did in 1966.
"I walked in at just the right time," said Valluzzo, who is now 69 and lives in Brookfield.
Valluzzo graduated from Danbury High School and trained as a barber at Bullard-Havens Technical High School in Bridgeport. He had several family members who were barbers and knew he wanted to be one, too.
In a half-century, Valluzzo estimates he has given haircuts to thousands of people.
Recently, he received a proclamation from Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker, recognizing his 50 years as a barber in town.
The business has undergone several renovations and expansions over the years. It has turned into a family business -- Valluzzo's wife, Paulette, his son, Nicky Jr., and his daughter, Lynn, all cut hair alongside Valluzzo. In total, he has five children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The first haircut Valluzzo gave cost $1.25, he recalled.
He has several original customers from his first years on the job. "Last year, a grandfather brought his grandson in for his first haircut. I had given the grandfather his first haircut," he said, chuckling that he now feels old.
He said he got a scare one day in the '70s when he learned there would be a light on the street right in front of his shop. "People used to be able to park right outside the shop. One day a Bethel police chief came in and told me they were putting a light up and there would be no more parking allowed on this street. I was devastated. I thought I would lose business."
Instead, the opposite happened. "When people are stopped at the light, they look around and notice a barber shop. The light has brought in so much business. It was a blessing in disguise."
When his customers get laid off or become ill, Valluzzo said he "takes care of them." Also, he makes house calls several times a month to give haircuts to customers who are not able to get out.
Through the decades, Valluzzo has seen many businesses around him come and go. Three of the original store owners of the businesses that are left, according to Valluzzo, are "Caraluzzi's Bethel Food Market, Belardinelli Tire Co. and myself," he said.
Valluzzo has seen many hairstyles come and go as well. There was the Elvis style of the '60s; hair like the Beatles in the '70s; shorter, spiked hair in the '80s; and a return to longer hair in the '90s.
In the 2000s, the Mohawk haircut became popular. "It started with just the football players but then all the kids wanted to get it," he said.
Valluzzo said becoming a barber was the best decision he ever made. "I get to talk to all these people. I have developed many friendships over the years. The customers have become part of my family. We share life events together."
Nicky's Haircutters can be reached at 203-792-4697.
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