Written by Gerry Laytin Thursday, 12 June 2014 00:00
The year was 1970: the average cost of a new house was $23,450; the cost of gasoline was 36 cents a gallon; Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix both died of drug overdoses; M*A*S*H had just hit the silver screen; and the National Guard shot and killed 4 protesters at Kent State University.
It was a time of great turbulence, but out of that upheaval, a business was born which would survive more than four decades. Pat’s/Pergament barber shop opened 44 years ago in the old Pergament Home Center at 3901 Hempstead Tpke. in Bethpage. And while the Pergament store is long gone, the barber shop, its 11 employees and founder Pasquale "Pat" Palumbo are still thriving seven days-a-week at their location across the street at 17 Emerson Ave. in Levittown.
“Mr. Pergament allowed me to continue operating my shop in the building after the store closed," Palumbo said. "He handed me the keys to the building. We trusted each other.” Few business deals are made over handshakes anymore.
Pat’s Barber Shop personifies the old values that would have made that possible. Pergament closed in 1999, and the barber shop operated there until 2003, when the bulldozers arrived to make way for what would become a Pathmark Superstore.
Born in 1928, Pat Palumbo learned how to cut hair from his uncle in Sicily as a young boy. When he came to America in 1959, Palumbo worked in Lower Manhattan, building his barbering business from the ground up.
From sweeping floors at the age of 8, it wasn't long before he was finally able to give his first shave and haircut at age 15.
Thirty-one years later, while working in New York, Palumbo would open a series of barber shops in the Financial District, attracting powerful customers such as former Gov. Mario Cuomo. Since then, politicians continue to be regular customers of Pat’s, including Assemblyman Joe Saladino andOyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Venditto.
Nassau County Supervisor for the Department of Public Works Tony Camporeale said he has been getting haircuts at the shop since 1972.
“I cannot believe it’s 42 years since I first got my hair cut here,” he said. “You can mark time and your life by this place.”
There aren’t many family owned, local businesses with the kind of following that Pat Palumbo has
created. Even among his staff—two of whom are with him over 50 years, and collectively possess over 300 years of barbering experience between them—the feeling of family is palpable. “The amazing thing about this place,” according to
Pat’s daughter Rose Drummond, who manages the shop, “in some cases, there are four generations of customers coming to us. Grandfathers, fathers, their kids and grandkids. It really is a wonder to behold.”
Pat’s Barber Shop is the real deal in every way.