Paul Maggiacomo will tell you that Henry Lozier is a cut above the rest.
Paul should know. He hired Henry 51 years ago and the two have been working side by side ever since.
But even great working relationships come to an end, and Henry will put away the scissors and the electric clippers at the end of the year. He will give up his morning routine of packing his metal lunchbox – he makes his own baloney or ham and cheese sandwiches – reporting for work promptly at 8:30 and donning his white jacket: He’s going to retire.
Maybe he’ll do some traveling but, more likely, he’ll do what he’s always done when he has time for himself – fix things around the house in Coventry and keep the place shipshape.
Henry doesn’t say a lot, not while he’s cutting hair or, for that matter, when he’s being interviewed.
It’s not that he doesn’t follow politics or the news. He’s up to date on what’s happening from the neighborhood to the Middle East. He gets a steady stream of information from the customers at Louie’s Barber Shop in Conimicut, not to mention plenty of commentary from Paul’s son Mark and Paul’s grandson, Alan Ferla.
“He does most of the talking,” Henry says gesturing toward Mark.
His scissors keep a steady snip, snip as he stands back to survey his work. He finds a single hair he’s missed and clips it before fielding the next question.
“I turned 80 last Monday,” he said. “It’s time to retire.”
Paul has cut his hours, too. Lately, he only comes in when the shop is shorthanded. This day, however, he’s made a point of coming in to hear what Henry has to say and, naturally, to fill in details to the story.
“We’re going to lose a good man,” Paul said.
He listed Henry’s virtues, from being punctual and minding his own business, to being able to take jokes and not having a disparaging comment about anyone.
“When you think about it,” Paul says, “we have lived longer together than with our wives.”
Except, in all those years, Paul and Henry have never had an argument or a disagreement.
As a union shop, Paul contacted the local union office when he needed some help in 1961. He was told about a barber in Providence who wasn’t happy where he was working.
And Henry wasn’t.
He was required to stand in the shop window with his arms folded across his chest when not with a customer. Further, he wasn’t allowed to have his own hair cut in the shop. He had to go elsewhere.
Henry was introduced to Louie’s and, in order to integrate him, Paul put Henry at the first seat, closest to the window and the cash register. That’s a seat that is usually taken by the shop owner, but Paul wanted Henry to feel like part of the team from the start. That’s been Henry’s chair ever since.
A career in barbering is not what Henry had his sights on growing up in Fort Kent, Maine. His family moved there from Canada and French was his native tongue. Henry was one of 20 children – “No twins,” he’ll tell you – of which only four are still alive.
His brother Lorenzo actually planned to be a barber but, when Lorenzo came down with polio, he suggested that Henry take the tools he bought and get into the business.
Henry remembers being told that cutting hair is a clean business and when the day is over, it’s over. He attended the New England Barber School in Boston in 1956. He started his career in Whitman, Mass. He was introduced to his wife, Lorraine, on a blind date that one of his sisters arranged.
Lorraine and Henry were married on July 4, 1960. They are parents of a son and grandparents of a set of twins.
“It’s a date you’ll never forget,” he says when asked why he picked Independence Day for his wedding.
Just about six months later – Jan. 19, 1961 to be exact – he went to work for Paul.
Henry said that, over the years, he’s had a few fussy customers, but nobody has refused to pay or never came back. Henry never kept count of how many cuts he did in a day but doubts it was anything like Paul’s record of 72.
In Paul’s opinion, Henry’s specialty is flat top cuts. He has a following that insists he do the cutting, even if it means waiting.
As Henry finished a customer, Paul slipped into the chair for a photograph of the two of them.
“You might as well give me a trim,” Paul said, and reflected, “I thought he would be here until he was 100.”
Henry didn’t say anything. He just kept snipping away.
When asked if Paul would get one of his flat tops, Henry smiled. Paul didn’t.
Henry suggested a crew cut might be a good thing. He pointed out that Paul wouldn’t need another cut for nearly a year.
But it’s guaranteed Henry will be missed long before then.