After 65 years of barbering, it's Addio! for "mayor" Tony Lombardo
Detroit — There were not many jobs around town when Tony Lombardo got back from the Army in the early 1950s.
Lombardo took great pride in serving his country.
But amid a stubborn, deep recession that gripped it, there was not much a young man could do to make a living.
“So, a friend of mine says, ‘Tony, why don’t you go to barber school.’” Lombardo said. “You’ve got to have a license to practice barbering.
“He said, ‘You’re not going to get rich, but you’ll always make enough to buy a loaf of bread to feed the family.’”
In the 65 years since, Lombardo, 88, has had sufficient bread.
He also made lots of friends, including several families who have come to him for haircuts for four generations.
On Sunday, in Dearborn, Lombardo’s family, friends and customers popped some champagne corks and celebrated his retirement, in Tony C’s Hair Styling on Monroe at West Outer Drive.
Nearly a decade after his wife, Antoinette, and daughter, Maria, began talking to him about retirement, Lombardo decided it was time to hang up his shears.
“He’s a good man,” his wife said. “He worked hard. He came home late a lot of nights.
“I really cared for him, and I spoiled him to death. But then, I thought, 'Oh, no, he’s getting old,' ” Antoinette Lombardo said. “He should retire and have a few years with me and relax a little bit.
“And then, finally, one day he told me, you know, I am getting a little tired. I think I’ll retire.”
Tony turns 89 next month.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve been getting my haircut from him for approximately 60 years,” said Victor Martin, a lawyer in Dearborn.
“My father and my father-in-law got their haircut from him. My father-in-law’s family did. My children did,” Martin said, “And my grandkids are currently getting their haircut from him. He’s a very old-school barber, old-school environment when you go in there. And he always gave a good haircut.
“I’m Italian by background, same as him,” he said. “And we’d go in there and talk a little Italian. Good sense of humor. It was actually a pleasant place to go, a nice escape.”
Before acting on his friend’s career advice, Lombardo already had a feel for barbering.
His grandfather owned a shop in Italy. When he died in World War I, his uncles took over.
“When I was little, my mother told me, 'Tony, I want you to go to the barbershop. I don’t want you to play in the street and get in trouble with the kids.’
“I hung around the barber shop. I trained a little bit.”
He attended the Green’s Barber College, at Michigan and Third in Detroit.
Walking into a Qwikee Donuts shop five blocks away, he met Antoinette.
“She was working behind the counter, and I saw her from the back, first,” Lombardo said.
“When she turned around, I said, ‘Uh-oh! This is it.’”
He worked for a few barbers, including in the Monroe Barber Shop.
Five years after starting, he bought out the owner.
“That was June 13, 1965,” he said.
He relied on a good resource for his best business practice.
“My mother said, try your best and be honest. And when someone comes into the barber shop and says, ‘Make me look good,’ I say, ‘I’m a barber. I’m not God. I don’t do miracles!’ ”
Two practices contributing to his longevity, he said, are cocktails before dinner and four pieces of fruit with lunch.
“My theory is this: Good food. The wife, she is an excellent cook. You must have a good dinner. And then, when I was younger, I used to have one or two cocktails before dinner.
“The meal? Sometimes, I’d have some wine with dinner. And then, with lunch, I’d have four fruits and a sandwich,” he said. “Maybe salami or mortadella with the sandwich and four fruits.”
His daughter, Maria, said her energetic dad is “amazing.”
“He’s funny. We joke and laugh and call him the mayor," she said. "Everywhere we go in Dearborn, everyone knows him. A restaurant, a hospital, wherever we go.”
The beauty shop next door will now expand into Tony C’s.
It is with a mixture of feelings that he is bidding, “Addio!” he said.
Lombardo said he will continue to paint, draw and woodcut, his artistic hobbies.
“I’m sad, but I’m a little more happy,” he said.
“I think it’s time.”