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National tour of historic barber shops ends in Saugus with the country’s oldest

George's Barber Shop owner Mike Moriello cuts the hair of Ryan Young, 10, of Saugus in the CREMO “Whirlaway,” a fully restored 1948 Spartan Manor trailor that toured from the West Coast to East Coast. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SAUGUS — A men’s grooming brand took a national tour to visit barber shops across the country. George’s Barber Shop made the cut.

The shop is run by Mike Moriello, a fourth generation barber who followed in the hair-clipping footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather — all of whom were named George. His great-grandfather opened the Jackson Street business in 1902 when he moved to the United States from Genoa, Italy. But the Board of Barbering didn’t begin regulating the practice of barbering until 1931, according to a Board of Registration for Cosmetology and Barbering spokesperson.

“Four generations in a row have gotten into the family business,” said Moriello. “We are the oldest family-owned and operated barbering business in the country. There are a few other old ones kicking around that have been bought and sold or moved locations over the years. We’ve always been here.”

A month and a half ago, a crew from the California-based grooming brand Cremo set out on a cross-country road trip in the Cremo Whirlaway, a fully restored 1948 Spartan Manor transformed into a barber shop on wheels.

Fully equipped with a barber chair, kitchen, and a shower in the bathroom, the mobile shop has housed dozens of barbers across the country, each giving free haircuts and shaves. But the Cremo Whirlaway has done more than that. It has been a place for conversation.

“This helps us in the promotion of men’s mental health,” said Jessica Delmundo, a spokeswoman representing Cremo. “Barbers often are like psychologists. Women go to salons and they talk and gossip. Men don’t typically talk, but research has found that they do talk to their barber. They trust them.”

From the West Coast to the East Coast, 38 shops joined Cremo’s barbershop brigade. When the Spartan Manor drove away, each was left with information on warning signs of depression and resources including help hotlines and pamphlets on mental health.

Moriello said he was impressed to learn about Cremo’s mission, and agrees that barbers have a unique ability to connect with people in the community.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to be a barber,” he said. “I thought it could be boring cutting hair all day. But the friends and the connections you make — it makes the job not so bad.”

Lifelong Saugus resident Paul Zermani has been getting his hair cut at George’s for 60 years. First by Moriello’s grandfather, then father, and now Moriello.

“Mike’s father and I used to talk about Corvettes and the Boston Bruins,” said Zermani, who agreed that it’s easier to talk to a barber.

The longest continuously operating barber shop in the country could see another generation, said Moriello. He’s not sure whether his two sons Jaiden and Jesse will follow in the footsteps of their father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great grandfather, but he’s optimistic with two chances.

 

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