Astoria residents James Ogle, Kevin Provost and Dan Connell recently teamed up to create “Astoria Stories,” a series of videos profiling established businesses in Astoria. The first video, released earlier this month, showcased Broadway Silk Store, a fabric store that opened in the 1930s.
For the second installment, the friends profiled Modern Barber Shop, which first opened at 30-14 Broadway in 1926. Patsy Castriota, a barber working in Manhattan, decided to open his own shop where he lived in Astoria. His nephew, Dominick Reda, started working there on Jan. 9, 1926.
Ogle, who gets his hair cut at Modern Barber Shop, wanted to tell people the story of the unique business, which has had only three owners in its long history.
Reda took over after his uncle retired in 1967 and just recently sold it to two former employees, who happen to be brothers. Nick and Artem Khaimov, who have worked at the barber shop for 15 and 16 years respectively, now run the business but still leave a chair open for Reda when he wants to work.
“I still call him boss,” Artem Khaimov said in the video. “His hospitality to the people, hospitality toward us … when we work with Mr. Dominic, we never feel like we were workers.”
Since the shop has been around for so long, the tools used for haircuts had to change with the times. Instead of just using scissors and a comb, the barbers now use clippers.
“When I started, it was just scissors and comb, no machines,” a barber named Benny said in the video. “Now it’s different. You gotta use machine and you gotta use scissors, too.”
He attributes this switch to the changing tastes in hairstyle. Most men who walk into the shop ask to keep their hair short and clippers make it easier to give a shorter haircut, he said.
Reda, who claims that Modern Barber Shop is the best shop in all the five boroughs, said having a good haircut is important for making a good impression.
“No matter if you got a Versace suit, if you got a lousy haircut it doesn’t matter,” Reda said. “If you got a Rolex it doesn’t matter. People look at your head.”
Reda said he has been able to purchase a house and put his children through college because of the business.
“My life here for 55 years was the best,” Reda said. “I don’t live like a millionaire but I live a good life.”
Watch the video below: