Razor’s Barbershop was your Scout’s Honored winner for Best Barbershop and Best Haircut. We spoke with Master Barber Joe Berriola.
Scout: How long have you been living here?
Joe Berriola: I’ve been here since June of 2004. It was my brother’s idea to run the shop, and this was a location that was already a barbershop.
S: Was there something that initially drew you to barbering?
J.B.: I like working with my hands. I like the idea of working with people, instead of for people. So, [I] just started cutting my friends’ hair, having conversations, and I really liked it.
S: What do you think people are looking for out of a barbershop experience?
J.B.: I think nowadays more of the—don’t get me wrong, the haircut—but I think the conversation. It’s been spoken out loud in here that people come in here a lot because of our environment. I know more about customers than I probably should (laughs). But that’s what people want nowadays in a barbershop. They wanna feel comfortable. They don’t wanna come in and just get a quick 10-minute haircut, pay the bill and get out. They want to feel a connection with that person.
S: How many new people are you having versus people that you’ve cut their hair before and are returners?
J.B.: I’d say 50 percent of the clients that come in are new. Between the Somerville/Cambridge area it’s a turnover crowd, between college, summer break, new people coming in for work. Young professionals. Families. My personal clientele is about 75% regulars. I’d say a third of my day is working with new clients.
S: What do you think is the most rewarding part of the process?
J.B.: Hands down, the customer looking in the mirror at the end of the haircut and going, ‘This is what I wanted.’ I might look at it and go, ‘That’s great.’ If one customer is unsure of their haircut, I’m not letting you out of my chair. So the second you walk out, and you’re happy with that, I’m happy.
S: When your brother [opened] the shop, did he specifically want to do it in Somerville, or was there a particular reason he wanted to create this barbershop?
J.B.: No, not really. ‘Cause when we came in, it was completely different. In the fifteen years that this shop has been here and I have been here, I’ve seen this area change so much. When we first got here, it was a question of, did we make the right decision? We weren’t that busy. We were the new guys. We weren’t locals. The local shops took over the city, because that was the kind of community that was still here. Until about two years in, it started to really pick up. I think people started recognizing who we were. We’re local boys, we’re from Medford. I might be one city over, but I’m as local as they come.
S: As a barber what goes into creating the perfect cut or shave for someone?
J.B.: Honestly, taking your time with the customer. Talk to them. Make them feel comfortable in the chair. I like to think that’s what brings my customers back. Being able to take a few seconds and actually listen. If I have to take a few extra minutes, and get myself behind schedule, it’s fine. That customer’s gonna come back, and if I do it right the first time, I’ll know what to do the second time.
I don’t want just a transaction. I want to get to know people a little bit about you, what you do, where you work. Talk to me. That’s what I’m here for.
This story appears in the September/October print issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.
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