Written by Gerry Laytin, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 20 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; the country lowered the voting age to 18; 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, including Jeffrey Miller, of Plainview-Old Bethpage’s John F. Kennedy High School.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 its doors 44 years ago in the old Pergament Home Center at 3901 Hempstead Tpke. in Bethpage. And although the Pergament store is long gone, the barber shop and its founder Pasquale “Pat” Palumbo are thriving seven days-a-week with a staff of 11 barbers at their location across the street at 17 Emerson Ave. in Levittown.
In fact, Palumbo said, “Mr. Pergament allowed me to continue operating my shop in the building after the store closed. 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.
When Palumbo came to America in 1959, he was working in Lower Manhattan plying the trade he learned from his uncle in Sicily as a young boy. Born in 1928, he learned the barbering business literally from the ground up. Sweeping the floors at the young age of 8, it wasn’t long until he started applying shaving soap, before finally being allowed to give his first shave and haircut at the age of 15. Fast forward 31 years, and Palumbo came to New York, in search of his American dream, working at shops in New York City until he had his license, and then opening a series of barber shops in the Financial District. While there, former Governor Mario Cuomo became a customer of his, along with many other political and civic leaders in the City.
Politicians continue to be regular customers of Pat’s, including Assemblyman Joe Saladino and Oyster 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.”
His barber, Romano, has been with Pat nearly half that time, 20 of his 33 years cutting hair.
“The amazing thing about this place,” according to Palumbo’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.”
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.
In every way, Pat’s Barber Shop is the real deal. The only thing missing from this shop is an old-fashioned barber pole out front, and a visit from Deputy Barney Fife.