Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” blares in the Village Barber Shop. Joe Guido, dressed in a tan work shirt and pants, ushers me in with a hug. The 66-year-old Chambersburg, Trenton, native greets every customer with a smile and a sunny demeanor. Leans up on the counter, eyes sparkling.
“You know what I’ll tell ya, this place here is really the local butcher market, and we just scalp people up. I don’t have a side job; I’m really just lazy. I cut hair, and then go home and give my wife a hard time. I’m 66 right now, old enough to retire, so now we kid about it. I say I just come here to socialize. You used to come here and get lollipops remember? And the bazooka gum. Best gum in town, I would like to to say.”
He launches into story mode, and absent-mindedly turns down Summer Wind so he can keep his thoughts clear.
“My father was a barber. When I was 16 he said I should get my barber’s license. He said jobs come and go, but a trade they could never take away from you. But at the time, I thought he was over the hill. What did he know? But to make him happy I got it when I was 17 years old. But it didn’t appeal to me.”
“You know when you’re in a restaurant and you see you have hair in your food it gives you the chills doesn’t it? Well imagine your hands in hair all day! I wanted no part of that. No one wants to do what their fathers do anyway. I wanted to be a big shot accountant. I went to Mercer County Community College for one semester for Accounting, but then realized that college wasn’t my bag. I took a job as an accountant at McGraw Hill accounting. And here I am at this accounting firm, 18 years old. And I think I’m a big shot. Pressed shirts and nice pants every day. I loved it because of the prestige. Accounting had a nice ring to it.”
“But then I began to notice some things. I saw people walking around all nervous biting their nails. Guys staying from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., day in and day out. Three months in on the job and I saw a 43-year-old male sobbing because he was let go. And I thought wow; maybe this isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. These people aren’t as happy as I thought they would be. But I always knew in the back of my mind that I had the barbering license to fall back on. So I went to ask for a raise. I was told I would have to wait at least six months before they could evaluate me. I had to wait through the bureaucracy. At that point I realized I didn’t need all that noise. So I took a job in Princeton cutting hair. But I didn’t really like it. I got drafted into the army at age 19, and I was honestly pretty excited to leave the barbering behind for a while. I served in the Coast Guard for nine months, and guess what I wound up doing? Cutting hair.”
“I was making 75 cents a haircut, which was pretty good money in the Coast Guard. After the Coast Guard I came home to Chambersburg, Trenton, and got a job at a factory. I was working with my brother, and we were both single at the time so it was a great gig. Good money and good company. Then I got put on the midnight shift. That wasn’t so great because I always thought the nights were for sleeping, not for working. It just so happened at that same time my Uncle Sammy was looking for a new hire in the Public Service business. I decided to give that a try to get away from this midnight shift business. I stayed with Public Service reading meters for seven years. But all the while I had an edge. I had an independence none of the other guys had. I wasn’t stuck. I knew if I didn’t like what I was doing I always had the barbers license to fall back on. It was an ace in the hole.”
“I was 23 and about to get married when I really started to rethink things. I realized I didn’t have a future in Public Service, at least not a bright one. I noticed this barbershop in Lawrenceville was open; I passed it every day when I did my rounds. I started working here one day a week. Soon after that, Jerry, the original owner wanted to sell it, but nobody was buying it. I thought I might have a future here; I could be my own boss. My dad and I worked together at this shop until he passed away. Then I took over. I opened it up in November 1970 and here I am forty years later. The atmosphere is great, and the people in Lawrenceville are phenomenal.”
“Most people look at my business as an entrepreneurship not as just some white-collar gig. I don’t have a traveling job, and everyday I’m home having dinner with my family and my daughter. When my daughter was in plays, I would put a note up at that night and say sorry closed until three or so. I would always go home in a decent mood everyday. To this day and I am 66 I have never let my job interfere with my home life. If I had something to do or somewhere to go, I would always close. But people always come back. I think everyone is entitled to a day off. If someone has a problem with me being off they take their business down the street. A lot of people admire our business. I’m here in the barbershop being a motor mouth and I think people come in here to escape the real world. Every once in awhile people come back in 15 to 20 years. It’s so nice, seeing people coming back. So many customers who move and come visit their old neighbors make it a point to come back just to see us. It makes us feel good. The people here are just great. It makes you enjoy it. If you can say you love what you do, you are the happiest person on earth.”
“Of course the barbering keeps a roof over my head, and there are many more pressing issues in life than just work. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t count my blessings. This is probably one of the best moves I have made in my whole life. And I will say it again, if you like what you’re doing you will always be happy.”