CHESHIRE— Maria Mazzacane Perez had given up on finding a new home for Cheshire Barber Shop — the business her father started 68 years ago — when a chance opportunity came along.
Mazzacane Perez was evicted from the shop’s longtime location at 1042 South Main St. on April 30. After about a month of searching for a new home, she ran into James Jude Barbato, a former Cheshire High School classmate and longtime owner of Southend Wine & Spirits, 910 S. Main St.
“Jim told me, ‘Well, I have a stockroom in the back. You probably won’t want it...I used to keep a lot of inventory, and now... I don’t keep that kind of inventory,’” Mazzacane Perez said. “I actually dropped to my knees in the parking lot. I was so happy when I saw it. I knew it was the place.”
What followed was a lot of work — dumpsters to haul away the expired liquor, remodeling, painting and new plumbing — to reshape what had been a storage room into a new shop. Mazzacane Perez installed new large lettering and her dad’s old barber pole outside.
The shop behind Southend Wine & Spirits officially reopened on Tuesday. Mazzacane Perez said she had 13 clients — long-time and new — that first day.
Barbato described Cheshire Barber Shop as a town institution and said he had gotten haircuts there. The old storage room behind his store was a cluttered space.
“There was just boxes everywhere — cases of old wine, cases of beer — and shelving. The floor was a mess,” he said.
He was impressed by Mazzacane Perez’s resolve to make a barber shop out of the storage room.
“It’s night and day,” Barbato said.
The shelving and clutter are gone. A new stone walkway, and patio furniture now invite would-be patrons. Then came the other hurdles, obtaining new permits and renewing her barber’s license.
“I could not see how (the shop closing) was going to turn into a positive experience. But it has,” she said. “It’s been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Now I can look around and say, ‘I did this.” I did this for my father and my son.”
Mazzacane Perez said her motivation for reopening was to see her father’s business carry on. She hopes to begin new traditions, like opening the store on Wednesdays, providing discounts on those days for military veterans and first responders, and keeping the shop open a little later on Thursdays and Fridays.
“My father’s father passed to him and my great grandfather passed to my grandfather,” she said. “This isn’t just a job and a business. This is part of my family’s heritage. And I’m very proud to be keeping it going...”