If you’ve driven down Hobart Street recently, you may have noticed the new sign in the window of the former Jack’s Barber Shop and wondered about the new owner. It turns out Dominic Leo , of the one year old Dominic's Old Fashioned Barber Shop, is somewhat of a character, and is thrilled to be a part of the fabric of Danvers.
Originally from Boston, or “The North End of Boston,” as he is certain to emphasise, Dominic found his way to the north shore by a circuitous route. “I’ve been a barber for 49 ½ years,” he proudly stated, recalling the exact date of his graduation from barber school on July 14,1962. He went on to describe how he worked at the Parker House and Somerset Hotel’s and the Prudential Center Barber Shop, and even owned a barber shop for a time in the North End.
Leo was raised by a single mother after his father passed away when he was just a month old, and Dominic is not ashamed to admit he grew up a real "Mamas Boy."
"She was the most wonderful woman," he fondly recalled. "A Bruins fan until the end-and my friends said she ruined them for all other women. She cooked for us and took us to Bruins games on Sundays at The Garden."
It's no surprise then, that today his most cherished relationships are with the women in his life: his girlfriend, his daughter and his ex-wife. "I was raised to cherish my family, and I do-I have no complaints," he said.
So how did a self described city boy wind up transplanted out here in the relative country? “I got tired of being in the basement (of the Prudential Center),” Leo explained. With no windows to let in the natural light, he realized he needed to make a change and did so after seeing an ad for a barber in Danvers. That was a dozen years ago, and since then, Leo has completely relocated here, moving permanently to Danvers six years ago. “I gotta say, I love Danvers, it’s a nice mix of people, I can tell you, I really love it here,” he said.
He is quick to point out he owes a debt of gratitude to his friend, former Jack’s Barber Shop owner Jack Rakit, for renting space to him, essentially paving the way for Leo to become a business owner.
“I had left a shop I was working for locally, and needed a place to go. I saw Jack was all alone, so I asked him if he’d be interested in renting me space, and he agreed. He was nice enough to give me a place to start out here, but then got sicker...,” his voice trailed off.
“I miss him. He was a wonderful man,” then his wise-guy sense of humor pops up as he recalls, “I used to give him a hard time every day.”
As was Jack’s Barber Shop in its day, Dominic’s Old Fashioned Barber Shoppe is indeed “old fashioned,” a real throwback to yesteryear, where men come inside for a quick cut and a neck shave. Even the new sign, designed by artist and sign maker Joe Cita of Ipswich, has a quaint feel.
A perfectionist aimed to please, Leo prides himself on taking the time to find out just how a customer he’s not familiar with likes to have his hair cut. He relishes the small-town feel and is committed to making each customer feel comfortable in his shop, just as they did at Jack's. He gets particular enjoyment out of his regular customers, who he treats like extended family.
“The best thing about my job are the customers, they’re just wonderful people, and I have a good time with them,” he said. A self described “happy-go-lucky,” person, Dom said to enter his shop, you can’t help but leave your problems at the door, and his customers should be prepared for his antics. “If your sitting there waiting, I may involve you in a conversation, which usually involves a heckling, and i wind up the one being heckled,” he laughed. “And the customers love it... I’ve known some of them for 25 years and they’re all wonderful people.”