If you’re looking to get a haircut at Larry’s Barbershop on a Saturday morning, get ready to stand, or rather, sit in line.
It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and the long-haired, scraggly followers are already waiting outside the door on Tache Avenue for Larry Goutsos to open up shop. By the time I arrive with my 87-year father at 9:30, we are already fifth in line. My father has been coming for the past 40 years.
And my dad won’t get onto that barber’s chair anytime soon. Larry takes his time with each customer. He gives them the royal treatment. And my father won’t leave either. No one will or they will lose their spot in line.
The small room, which at one time had three chairs, now has only one. In the 1970s, says one of the veteran clients on this day, there were three barbers, but everyone lined up for Larry, even with two other barbers waiting and willing. An odd scenario, eight people in a room waiting for a haircut, three barbers, and always two empty seats. "We’ll wait for Larry," they’d say.
The walls of the barber shop are adorned with many curios: an old map of Canada, a painting of Larry and his son, and a small portrait of Larry, a gift from one of his customers. One small poster captures the mood of the place: "Why is it that the only people who know how to run this country are either driving cabs or cutting hair?"
In this fast paced world with everyone always in such a hurry, why would a person wait, for up to two hours, for a haircut? One of the first in line says, "I’ve never been in a happier barber shop. Everyone talks." Another says, "Larry listens to you." They’ve tried other barbers, but they just didn’t seem as good. More importantly, there was no connection.
They come for the conversation and the stories. One fellow, originally from the Norwood area and now residing in St. Vital, has been coming to Larry for 45 years. Another veteran of 20-plus years says, "Larry knows everyone" and he can catch up on St. Boniface stories, the families, the kids and their jobs and the neighbourhood happenings.
Another says that Larry "gives a good haircut." The room nods in agreement. Larry’s fingers never stop snipping. Charles, a 20-year veteran speaks to Larry’s skill: "He’s more disciplined, old school, like an artist at work. The snip-snip-snip is rhythmic, like a song."
Larry came to Canada from the small Greek hamlet of Niata, just outside Sparta in 1959, and has been a Norwood resident for most of his life. He worked a chair in another barber shop behind the old McCullough Drugs, now the Pharamsave on Marion, from 1960-65. He opened his own shop at the current location in 1965 and has been snipping ever since.
In 2008, Larry contracted West Nile Virus and became bed ridden and then, wheel-chair bound.
For six months, his clients approached the door of the shop but Larry was nowhere to be found.
He came through the disease with flying colours and shows no effects of his scare, largely, Larry says, "because of the man upstairs." To Larry’s surprise, all his customers returned.
Another customer pops his head into the shop from outside. He notices the six-deep wait of people and stops abruptly, head curled around the door, body tailing outside the shop.
"Larry, any time today?" Larry says to come back around closing time, so the fellow takes off.
He will return. They all do.
Adriano Magnifico is a community correspondent for St. Boniface. You can contact him at email@example.com.