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After 107 years, Schenectady’s Wedgeway barbers depart for new shop

After 107 years, Schenectady’s Wedgeway barbers depart for new shop

Business' owner sees an opportunity to grow
After 107 years, Schenectady’s Wedgeway barbers depart for new shop
Wedgeway barbers, from left: Jess Petrequin, Richard DiCristofaro, Shaun McDonald, Tom Rorick. Seated is owner Dawn Taylor.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY -- The final stories have been told inside the former Wedgeway Barber Shop on Erie Boulevard, across from the city's train station.

Dawn Taylor and her team of barbers on Saturday worked their scissors and razors for the last time inside the snip and shave shop that first opened in 1912. The team packed up and headed just down the street to a new shop.

During the early afternoon, the crew moved equipment, photos and other furnishings to the new Wedgeway at 128 Erie Blvd. The barbers opened for the first time in their new location on Tuesday.

"We're still on the Erie Canal," said Richard DiCristofaro, a longtime Wedgeway barber and owner who sold the business to Taylor in 2012.

By 10:15 a.m., eight customers had already taken seats for haircuts inside the building located between Wendy's restaurant on one side and the First National Bank of Scotia on the other. The new barber center is across the street from the Sunoco gas station and market.

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Taylor said with returning customers, the new stories have started.

"I had an opportunity to grow the Wedgeway business because Schenectady is growing so wonderfully," she said, explaining her decision to move a business that had remained in the same location since 1912.

It wasn't an easy call.

"There's a lot of nostalgia," Taylor said, "but if you don't grow with your surroundings, then you won't grow at all, you'll die out. And Schenectady surroundings are growing fast and furious."

The building she moved into was last used as a tax center. A new black-and-white tile floor is down, white walls are in place and mirrors on a side wall will let people reflect on their new and improved looks.

Taylor said she has extra space for a fifth chair -- the old shop had only four chairs -- and there are plenty of spots for outdoor parking. The Wedgeway is leasing some parking spots from Wendy's and more spaces from the First National Bank, which owns the building.

Taylor believes her client base, which she estimated at 2,000 men and women, will find their way to lower Erie Boulevard.

"We have been spreading the word for about six weeks," she said, adding there are now signs on the former shop's windows and back door that will inform shaggy customers they'll now have to travel a little farther down the boulevard.

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Two new barber poles, with the familiar spinning stripes of red, white and blue, are in the front window. The Wedgeway's original 1912 barber pole is now in storage and could find a spot in the new shop. The wooden cash register, another 1912 souvenir, is already on the job.

The shop has a colorful history.

Joe Vacca started the business in the Wedgeway building, which opened in 1912 and was once billed as the largest office building in the city.

"More people pass in and out of this building than any other office building in the city," read an advertisement in the 1912 Schenectady Directory.

Elevator service and mail chutes were among the extras.

The Alcamasi Beauty and Barber Supply Co. purchased the business from Vacca. Joe Cupo became the owner around 1920 and Wedgeway barber Patsy Gallo bought the business in 1936.

DiCristofaro, who began his Wedgeway career in 1962, bought the place from Gallo in 1972.

The shop always had customers. DiCristofaro said 17 law offices were once located in the Wedgeway; lawyers heading to court or other public places always wanted to look sharp. Politicians and police officers stopped in; executives from the General Electric and American Locomotive companies made visits.

Sometimes, there were celebrities. According to a Wedgeway story published in the Gazette in 2012, cowboy star Buck Jones, magician Harry Blackstone and lightweight boxer Billy "The Fargo Express" Petrolle slipped into the swivel chairs.

DiCristofaro said there were some bittersweet feelings about leaving the space where he has spent most of his working life.

"But Dawn has done such a remarkable job, it's taken any of the bitterness away," he said. "I'm really excited and happy about the place she found."

In addition to Taylor and DiCristofaro, the Wedgeway team includes Tom Rorick, Jess Petrequin and Shaun McDonald.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

 

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