A regular retirement for Riverhead barber

06/03/2010 12:00 AM |

Roy Sinko, 69, of Riverhead, trims Bob Boremus’ hair Friday in Roy’s Regular Barber Shop on Peconic Avenue. Mr. Boremus has been getting his hair cut for 40 years by the Riverhead barber, who is hanging up his clippers. Mr. Boremus is buying the barber chair at Roy’s for sentimental reasons.

“I’ll be in shock tomorrow when I close the place,” Roy Sinko said Friday from Roy’s Barber Shop on Peconic Avenue. “I’ve been here 30 years. It’s like home to me. Tomorrow’s the last day. It’s time to retire and take it easy and ride my motorcycle.”

Roy’s Barber Shop, or Roy’s Regular Barber Shop, as his sign says, has been there for three decades, but Roy’s been around cutting hair here even longer.

He had the barbershop concession in Billy Blakes, a department store on Route 58 back in the 1970s. Blakes was located in what later became the Suffolk Life building.

“That’s where most of the people in this town know me from,” Mr. Sinko said. “I had the haircutting concession there, probably around 1975 or ’76, and then I moved down here and I’ve been down here for all these years.”

But Saturday was his last day as he closed his shop for the last time. “It’s been a good ride over here,” he said Friday.

Some of his customers have been with him for most of that ride. “I’ve been coming here about 30 years,” said Frank Antonelli of Hampton Bays. “He’s one of the best.”

Mr. Antonelli is a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was wounded twice and received a Purple Heart. He said he sometimes talks about the war with Mr. Sinko while he’s getting his hair cut.

“He’s a great barber,” Mr. Antonelli said. “I’ve got no complaints about him.”

Bob Boremus of Riverhead topped that. He’s been getting his hair cut by Mr. Sinko since before he opened Roy’s Barber Shop; he was a customer when Mr. Sinko worked in Billy Blakes.

He said his son and grandson both got their first haircuts from Mr. Sinko, and that he plans to buy the barber chair in Mr. Sinko’s store and keep it in his house.

That barber chair is about 75 years old, Mr. Sinko said. He took it with him from Billy Blakes.

The chair isn’t the only thing that hasn’t changed about Mr. Sinko’s shop.

“I never had a telephone here in 30 years,” he said. “I kept it like it was in the old days. I always wanted it to be like that. I always wanted to keep it like a regular old-time barber shop, with the striped pole outside. You’ll notice my sign outside says ‘Roy’s Regular Barber Shop.”

He kept a red-and-white striped pole outside for about 25 years. It was made out of plumbing pipe and painted by a friend, he said.

And what about that sign?

“The reason I put that up is that I just wanted to do regular haircuts,” Mr. Sinko said. “I didn’t want to do styling or any of that type of thing. I did that when I was in the city and there were enough customers out here that just wanted to go to a regular barbershop. They didn’t want to go to a place where they had to get their hair washed.”

Mr. Sinko was born in the Bronx, near Yankee Stadium, where he worked selling hot dogs as a kid, around the time Joe DiMaggio played.

He later joined the Navy, and that’s where he learned how to cut hair. After he got out of the Navy, he briefly worked in a barber shop in Manhattan before moving east and taking the job at Billy Blakes. When Billy Blakes closed, he briefly worked in Mattituck, before he and another barber took the haircutting concession at Great Eastern, a department store that replaced Billy Blakes in the same location.

After that, he came to Peconic Avenue, and has been there ever since. Originally, he had a partner, and the business was called “Nick and Roy’s.” Nick moved to Florida after about three years, and it’s been “Roy’s Barber Shop” for the past 30.

“I’ve had three generations come here for haircuts,” Mr. Sinko said. “I like the people that come here. They’ve been like family to me.”

Mr. Sinko kept an exercise bike in his shop that he rode during lunch breaks or slow times to keep in shape. Before that, he went through three treadmills in his store.

“That’s why I’m only 160 pounds and still in good shape,” the 69-year-old Mr. Sinko said.

Downtown Riverhead used to have more stores and more people when he first opened, Mr. Sinko said, but that didn’t affect his business. His customers always found him.

“When I first came here, there were five barbershops on Peconic Avenue,” he said.

Mr. Sinko said his customers have included doctors, lawyers, police chiefs and others, and most of them have become good friends. He even liked all of his landlords.

“They’re more than just customers. They’re friends,” he said.

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