EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

September 27, 2013

Conversation and cuts go together at barbershop

Barbershops, where conversation is as important as hair

PLAISTOW — The barbershop experience is as much about the art of men conversing as it is about a little off the sides.

Traditional barbershops, where men still rule and conversation matters as much as the cut, is one of “603 Reasons” why people think New Hampshire is special.

Tony Santagate, owner of The Barber Shop on Main Street, isn’t surprised “barbershops where you can get all the local gossip,” showed up at No. 468 on the list of “603 Reasons.”

But he said he tries to avoid a couple of topics with his customers.

“We don’t get into politics or religion,” he said. “Everyone has a personal preference. We respect your preference.”

Sports is another matter.

“Baseball, football, hockey — everyone wants to talk about those things,” Santagate said.

Conversation isn’t for every customer.

“Some like to talk, some like to get their haircut and leave,” Santagate said.

Barbers respect that, too, and they learn to listen to what’s on the customer’s mind.

“They can spend $90 an hour for a therapist or they can spend $14 here,” he said.

Good barbers never try to solve problems.

“We listen and we try to let them decide what the right answer is,” Santagate said.

Bob Jacobsen of Hampstead followed Santagate from his old shop in Hampstead when the barber opened this one in Plaistow seven years ago.

He recalled his wife saying his hair looked good the first time Santagate gave him a haircut. So he kept coming back.

“We’ve had a good time,” Jacobsen said.

“We hit it off like family,” Santagate said.

The two will talk about what’s happening around town and with their mutual acquaintances, and crack a few jokes.

“You know the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut?” Santagate asks.

“Two weeks,” he answers, gesturing with two fingers upheld.

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