by Pete Mazzaccaro
When Angelo DiPinto found a job at Harry Smith’s barber shop at 8509 Germantown Ave. (now Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop), there were a lot of barbers in Chestnut Hill. He joined four other barbers who trimmed hair and shaved faces for a steady stream of Hillers. That was 1954.
Today, 60 years later, DiPinto finds himself in the position of being the last barber in the neighborhood. His little shop, Angelo’s Barber Shop, 8433 Germantown Ave., has been open since 1960. There’s not the same number of customers, but for DiPinto, 81, the work is just right.
“It’s very good,” he said of business, which still keeps him busy but not nearly at the rate it did many years ago. “At one time we had three barbers here. Now people don’t get their haircut like they used to.”
The business is not enough for three barbers, but more than enough for Angelo. Recent developments have slowed him down – from diabetes to a pacemaker – but he still works five days a week, at least five hours a day.
“I’m going downhill,” he says with a laugh.
DePinto was 14 when he started cutting hair in his hometown of Montenero Di Bisaccio in Abruzzi, Italy. His father, a farmer, decided to join his brothers and sisters in Philadelphia in 1953 and took the family to Tacony in the Northeast.
A newspaper ad led him to Smith’s barber shop, where he cut hair for $1.25 a cut.
“He was a tough man,” DiPinto recalled. “But he was always good to me.”
Chestnut Hill at the time, Angelo recalled, was a really nice place, full of wealthy, generous patrons.
“It was so nice, no one even knew about it,” he added.
In 1957, he married Rose Salemno, sister of the late Chestnut Hill barber Frank Salemno. Shortly after that, he moved to Chestnut Hill. He and Rose live in Erdenheim today.
In 1960, Angelo opened his own shop. Two years later, however, he sold it it to Victor Pace, and it was called Victor’s Barbershop for 50 years until Pace retired in 2009 and sold the store back to DiPinto.
All that time, DiPinto worked for Pace. He did not, he said, wanted to be bothered with the business side of things at the time. But he’s happy to be on his own today.
Today, Angelo’s shop is a genuine throwback experience. At a time when other barber chains try to recreate a nostalgic experience for their customers, Angelo’s barber shop is an authentically preserved barber shop that has changed very little since it first opened in 1960.
Though the shop went though tough times – including the long-hair phases of the late 60s – DiPinto says he has many customers who are fourth generation.
On Yelp – the online review site – Angelo’s has a healthy 4.5 star review (out of a possible 5) where people praise the Angelo for his great prices – $14 a cut – and his steady hand. Many regulars also know they can count on a good joke, for which DiPinto has an encyclopedic memory.
“Which is farther away, Florida or the Moon?” he’ll ask. “Florida. You can see the moon but you can’t see Florida.”
After 60 years of cutting hair on the Hill, DiPinto says he has absolutely no intention of retiring.
“I’ll do it as long as I can,” he says. “What am I going to do at home? Watch TV?”