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Hair they come again

Need a trim? Barbershops are popping up all over the place

Jose Paulino fine-tunes Chris Damaso’s new haircut at Santana’s Barbershop at 655 Chelmsford St., in Lowell.
Jose Paulino fine-tunes Chris Damaso’s new haircut at Santana’s Barbershop at 655 Chelmsford St., in Lowell.

Santana’s Barber Shop is finally unlocked for cutting locks.

The shop, which opened in February 2019 at 655 Chelmsford St., in Lowell, was just gaining steam when the lockdown forced a two-month closure. Owner Kenley Santana says the industry, like many others, suffered greatly during recent months.

“We had a bad run there,” he said, citing the need to reduce staffing from six barbers to two. “But we are going to make a go of it.”

His, and the 1,705 other licensed barbershops in Massachusetts (up from 1,590 in 2015), have been allowed to reopen recently — with caveats, of course.

And judging by the looks of some of the hair-don’ts that isolation has produced (you’ve seen them on social media and maybe even in your own house), that is a good thing. You need their business. And they need yours. The do-it-yourself jobs are not as pretty as you think, despite the white lies your friends tell you.

Juan Ferguson, owner of Pistop Barbershop in Ayer, gives a sharp look to regular customer Mark Calabrese.

As the voting polls close, the barber poles spin, and with more than 5,000 licensed cutters in the Bay State, finding one nearby is as easy as combing your hair.

Among the ranks of newly added shops to the Nashoba and Merrimack valleys is The New Image a 272 Central St., in Leominster. The six-chair establishment accepts walk-ins and is always staffed by licensed professionals, bilingual in Spanish and easily accessible.

Like The New Image, most shops are independently owned and operated, which helps the local economies instead of some corporate entity. If the pole is spinning, the scissors are clipping.

The barber pole is a mandatory accoutrement for all shops. It indicates, even from a distance, that the place is fully certified and approved for operations, and when the red-white-and-blue-striped cylinder is in motion, the doors are open.

Barber Connor Joyce of Tewksbury does a haircut for customer Austin Harrington, also of Tewksbury, at The Corner Barber Shop on Main Street in Tewksbury. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

The licensure bar for barbers is quite high. To procure a Massachusetts barber’s license, prospects must complete a 1,000-hour classroom program. The shop itself is likewise scrutinized separately along state standards and guidelines set forth by local boards of health.

One man who knows a lot about the requirements — both pre-COVID and under current restrictions — is Juan Ferguson. The owner at Pitstop Barbershop in Ayer, Ferguson has been honing his craft for decades in the Central Massachusetts area. His current enterprise is at 210 Main St., where the motto is “Get buzzed.”

Historically and presently, a barbershop is more than a place for grooming. It is a bonding site for dads and sons, a gossip shop for current affairs and a moment of escape from the worries of the day.

Temporary measures forbid the grooming of beards, and masks must be worn by both the stylist and the patron. Although many shops do take walk-ins, those who are “NEXT!” must wait outside, usually in their cars.

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