By Claire Walla
Marty Trunzo has fought in a war, lived through the Great Depression and earned a quarter tip from Howard Hughes. He’s given the malocchio (or, “evil eye,” in Italian) to those who’ve done him wrong, kicked a nit-picky customer out of his store and even spent an afternoon with Elmo. He also claims to have been threatened by the mob and forced to relocate. Twice.
You might already know all this if you were ever a customer in Trunzo’s Main Street Shop. Though a barber by trade, he’s a relative story teller by profession. Those who came into Marty’s Barbershop on Main Street in Sag Harbor over the years weren’t just greeted with a pair of shears and a hot towel, they were regaled with stories.
And Trunzo — dressed in a light-blue smock, his thick grey hair neatly brushed to the side — certainly had a lot of them.
This week, one of his greatest tales will officially come to an end. After 82 years in the business, Trunzo will put down his clippers for good.
But those in need of a trim and a shave, fear not. On Monday, May 2, the Main Street shop will officially re-open as Tommy’s, which, for Trunzo, is a bittersweet transition.
“Barbers…” Trunzo began, trailing off briefly before finding the words to continue. “It’s a tradition. You really have to love it. There’s a word for that, ‘amatore,’ it means love what you’re doing.”
And Trunzo truly did.
Because he cared so much for the integrity of the small, two-chair clipping space he has owned since 1964, he was reluctant to advertise its availability after deciding to retire from the profession for good last summer.
“I didn’t want any butchers coming in here, you know? I didn’t want anyone to ruin my reputation,” he explained.
The shop was dark for a few months until, with no promising leads to speak of, Trunzo popped over to see his friend George Iorio at Barber Hair Stylists in Southampton. After explaining that he was looking for someone to run the shop while keeping the traditional feel of Marty’s intact, Iorio told Trunzo about his son, Tommy.
Sporting a sharp, close-cropped cut — much shorter than Trunzo’s side swept mane — and speaking with a similarly accented, yet more commanding version of Trunzo’s Marlon Brando-like vibratto, the young barber had just the ‘amatore’ Trunzo was looking for.
Tommy Iorio, 30, began work as a barber when he was 17-years-old.
“A haircut’s the most important thing. When you go on a job interview, or when you go out and meet people, that’s the first thing they look at. They want to see that you take care of the grooming,” Iorio explained. “When you have that kind of confidence, you look good, you feel good. You can take on anything.”
Though Iorio plans to cater to his customers’ desires, breaking from traditional crew-cuts and flat-tops to churn-out such trendy dos as faux-hawks and razored fringe, Iorio plans to keep the ambiance of Marty’s intact.
“I’m going to make it a traditional barber shop, just the way it was,” Iorio explained. “That’s how I like it. It makes it more comfortable for me.”
And for Trunzo.
“You won’t have any problems at all,” Trunzo told him.
Iorio worked in his father’s shop for a few years, learning the ins and outs of his father’s traditional barber technique, like using hot towels to wet the skin before a close shave. He was living in Queens before being asked to takeover Marty’s.
“Marty has a lot of history in this town and in this shop,” Iorio continued. “He’s seen a lot in his time. He’s seen a lot change.”
Having moved to the Sag Harbor from Italy when he was 11-years-old, Trunzo immediately latched on to the profession.
“I said, ‘Father, I want to be a barber,’” Trunzo recalled. “He said, ‘A barber? In 1930?! How much is it going to cost?!’
This was the time of the Great Depression.
“I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth,” Trunzo recalled, though he finally divulged the cost: $150 for a six-week course.
“He blew up, you know?” Trunzo said with a little laugh.
He raised his arms to his ears, palm-side down, mimicking his father’s reaction.
“Where in the world am I going to get $150?!” he bellowed.
So, 11-year-old Marty started out as an apprentice instead.
Working his way through four years of apprenticeship, then 10 years working in a few different local shops, Trunzo opened his own barbershop, three houses down from the John Jermain Memorial Library on Main Street in Sag Harbor, in 1944. Back then, Trunzo said he often worked 12-hour days.
“Years ago, you couldn’t go out on a Saturday night without a necktie, a nice haircut, you know?” Trunzo said.
He and Iorio both realize the barbershop is different now than it used to be. From his experiences working in Queens, Iorio said people don’t have the amount of leisure time that once made it possible to sit around the shop, read the newspaper and chat with your barber. Trunzo also laments certain trends adopted by younger generations.
“Oh my God, even kids three or four-years-old, they’ve got hair like a shaggy dog. I mean, give the kid a good clipping, scrub his head,” Trunzo exclaimed, animated. “But, long hair, what are you supposed to do with it?”
He said he also doesn’t get certain modern-day fashions.
“The temperature’s 90 degrees and you’re wearing boots, it doesn’t make any sense,” Trunzo added very matter-of-factly as Iorio chuckled at his side. “Am I wrong?” Trunzo grinned, having brought his audience to fits of laughter. “I saw one the other day: I thought she had two poodles on her feet. “
Once all had subsided, Iorio said he’s not too worried about getting clientele.
“Eighty percent of the haircut is the conversation,” he explained. “You know, when people find out you do a good job, even if they don’t have the time, they know what kind of service you’re going to give and they’ll wait for it.”
“If you’re good, you’re good,” Trunzo continued. “I’ve worked in Sag Harbor since 1944. I must have been doing something right.”