By Karen Cornelius
After fifty years of cutting hair, Joseph “Joe” Delmonico is celebrating his “golden” career achievement this year. Sharing in this auspicious occasion for the Delmonico Barber Shop on Liberty Avenue are his son, John, cutting hair for 17 years at the shop, and grandson Gino joining the family business two years ago. Considered family is Gene Forbush, fourth barber, Joe’s boss 50 years ago, and who now works for Joe.
According to Delmonico, there are even more barbers in his family sharing this lifelong tradition. He is a twin, with his brother, Pete, and Pete’s son, Jeff, owning a four-chair shop in Lorain. The family joke is on their dad who is bald and often exclaims of all the professions in the world, his offspring are barbers.
Delmonico stated that he came to Vermilion back in 1974 and has been here 43 years with the past seven working in Lorain. “I always knew I wanted to be a barber and would hang around a shop thinking I could do that,” he said. Right after high school, he entered barber school and then was drafted into the U.S. Army for a time before re-entering his work’s passion, owning his own shop, and cutting and styling hair.
“I love Vermilion, everything about it. It’s great. When I first started here, people were just fantastic,” said the barber. After decades, Joe has acquired quite a following with people often honking their car horns and waving as he walks down the street. Even after 50 years, he has no plans to retire. “When this becomes work, then I’ll retire. I love people. I enjoy all of it.” Trying to recall any hard or downtime events during the years, Delmonico said he could not think of any. “I don’t have a hard part.”
His schedule is rigorous, but one he’s followed as just a routine getting up at 3:30 a.m. to open the shop at 5 a.m. Before that he always gets his 3,000 crunches in for exercise. He recalls one time he jokingly remembers when there was a blinding snowstorm and his wife of 45 years, Gina, thought he should stay home. Though difficult, he made it to work at 5:05 a.m. and who should be waiting for him but an elderly man in a truck wondering where Joe had been.
Gina relates how proud she is of her husband and his devotion to his customers. Even after the shop closes there are times when Joe needs to help someone by visiting the person’s home, nursing home, and even hospital after work. In the family, he is everyone’s idol, said Gina. Their son, John, always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and after that, his son, Gino. Now John’s other son, Giovannie, is thinking about going to barber school.
Delmonico said all the generations get along and each provides his own personality and interests to the business. “If you come in, there’s something for everyone, almost like choosing a chair,” he said. Customers who come to Joe, usually the older ones, talk sports. Son, John, likes cars and stereos. Grandson, Gino, is into bowling and was a state champ out of 5,000 competitors. He likes cars, too. Gene also attracts older customers who talk hunting and fishing. All, however, are up on the trends and favorite cuts from the youngsters “Mohawks” to adult “Flat Tops.” Delmonico has seen it all in 50 years and the cuts go full circle with just different names. They have gone from long hair to design lines in hair, to total head shaves.
Joe is additionally a loyal veteran and proudly always has time to be a lifetime member of AMVETS, and member of the VFW and American Legion, all Vermilion posts. During 2002-2003 he was commander of the Italian American War Veterans. He and his son are also Masons.
Delmonico stated that he is grateful for Vermilion’s support and he would like to celebrate on Saturday, September 2, with a Customer Appreciation Day, a community party. He invites all to join the generations at Delmonico’s and stop by for his 50th anniversary cookout at 4500 Liberty Avenue, the former Holtwick Insurance building where his business has been for the past ten years.