Many haircuts later, ‘Al the barber’ is still smiling

05/18/2015 8:00 AM |
A customer honked his horn as he passed by Al Amore's Tailored Male Barber Shop in Cutchogue earlier this month. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

A customer honked his horn as he passed by Al Amore’s Tailored Male Barber Shop in Cutchogue earlier this month. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

You’ll have to forgive Al Amore if he doesn’t remember the newspaper article he just read.

The title of the movie he just saw or the score of the game, well, he probably can’t recall those either.

But say you found yourself in his barber chair, chatting nervously about your brother’s wedding to come later that day — well don’t be surprised if weeks later he asks you how the toast went. 

“I can remember a lot about people,” Mr. Amore said during an interview at his Tailored Male Barber Shop in Cutchogue. “I remember their faces. I can recall their stories. I can’t remember much else in life, but I do remember my customers.

“In fact, sometimes I hold back on telling them I remember something about them,” he added, “because I fear they’ll think I’m keeping a tape recorder in my jacket.”

It’s that gift Mr. Amore, or “Al the barber” as you may know him, cites as a major reason for his success in the haircutting business. He opened his first shop nearly 40 years ago and has no plan to slow down any time soon.

In fact, Mr. Amore, 61, currently owns five haircutting businesses between Southold and Mount Sinai. Since moving to Wading River 27 years ago, he has owned a total of 11 shops in Suffolk County, having sold five of them after building them into successful enterprises. He employs close to 30 people.

“I only had one bomb,” he said, recalling a shop in Mastic that he closed after just one year.

So how does he do it?

He has a formula.

To start, he always scouts locations. Before opening his shops in Cutchogue and Southold — the only two places where he still regularly cuts hair — he’d known for about a decade that he wanted to come to the North Fork. There has to be a need for a barber shop and the right rental property needs to come along, he said.

From there his plan is simple: Open quickly and efficiently, with minimal decorations and limited overhead. If you have personality — and he has tons of it — the chairs will always be full.

“If you’re nice to people, 98 percent of them will be nice back to you,” Mr. Amore said. “I really like talking to people and I do care about them.”

He learned of this talent at a very early age while at a barber shop — of all places — sweeping up hair for his old man. Sandy Amore was the first generation in what has become a family of Amore haircutters. He owned shops in Queens where, at the age of 8, young Al had his first job. By age 17, Al had his own chair and within five years, he would launch his old business.

It’s a path similar to the one Mr. Amore’s own son, Chris, 29, took in his career. After growing up at his father’s barber shops and cutting hair at Tailored Male shops in Mount Sinai and Hampton Bays, he opened Christopher’s Cuts — just three-tenths of a mile from his dad’s shop in Wading River — two years ago.

Catering to different clienteles — Chris’ shop is marketed to a younger customer, though they both attract people of all ages — they’ve found there’s plenty of business to go around at the western edge of Riverhead Town.

“One thing I learned from my father is that you can’t be afraid to take chances,” Chris said. “If you don’t take that gamble, you might not be successful.”

While their shops may be different — Chris’ customers are greeted by a flat screen TV and car magazines while Al’s are serenaded by easy listening — they both believe in the formula.

“My dad is a great person and he’s great with people,” he said. “I never hear him say anything negative about anybody. I’ve learned so much from him.”

Mr. Amore’s customer’s agree.

“He’s a very friendly man,” said John Scanlon of Cutchogue. “He gives a good haircut, runs a good shop and knows everyone.”

As for who’s the better barber in the family, Al says it’s not even close.

“Chris definitely is,” he said of his son. “And my father, I couldn’t shine his shoes.”

Of course, the Amore men aren’t the only ones cutting hair. The women do their part, too. Al’s wife of 37 years, Marie, cut hair for years at his Wading River shop before focusing on the businesses’ books, and his daughter, Marguerite, 33, also breaks out the scissors when she’s not busy raising her 2-year-old son, Luca.

Mr. Amore doesn’t keep stats on just how many heads he’s cut, and he wouldn’t even care to venture a guess. It’s more than likely just about anyone around these parts — and there will be many more to come. He figures he’ll cut hair at least twice a week well into his 70s.

“If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “It’s been a great trip, man.”

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