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Mall Barbers celebrates 40 years of service

Date: 12/8/2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD How does an old-fashioned barber shop stay in business in a world full of chic boutiques?

"Generation after generation," Maria Gomes, owner of Mall Barbers, located in the Sears wing of Eastfield Mall, said. "Grandfathers bring their grandsons...the whole family comes."

Mall Barbers recently celebrated its 40th anniversary by giving out gift certificates and free haircuts to loyal customers.

"It's important to show appreciation to our customers," Gomes said. The shop celebrated its 25th and 35th anniversaries in the past, and if all goes well, Gomes is hoping to celebrate the 45th in five years.

And, according to Gomes, business is still doing well, despite the economy.

"People still come in, but not as often," she said, and she believes it is for two reasons. One is that people are saving money by making trips less often. Some of her customers come from Ware, Belchertown and even northern Connecticut for their hair care.

The other reason is that longer hair is in style right now, and longer hair doesn't need to be cut as often.

"A lot of things [hairstyles] repeat themselves," Gomes explained. "You saw a lot of long hair in the '70s. But you move with the times."

Gomes said she attends one or two hair shows a year to keep up with current trends; she also watches teen television shows so she knows what kids are talking about when they come in an ask for a "faux-hawk."

A common request is young men wanting to look like the Jonas Brothers.

Mall Barbers attracts everyone, from first haircuts to a 97-year-old.

Gomes joined the staff in 1979. She finished barber school on a Saturday and started work the following Tuesday. She recently took over ownership of the shop from its founder, Ciro Bracci, who, at 82, still works several days a week.

Mall Barbers was the first tenant of Eastfield Mall and opened April 1, 1968. The mall itself didn't officially open until October of that year.

The shop currently employs six barbers, three men and three women. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Walk-ins and appointments are both accepted.