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No drama in my shop

May 4, 2010

by R.J. Tamburri

The sounds are unmistakable—the buzz of the clippers, the snap of the scissors, the scrape of the straight razor, the back and forth banter—this is a barbershop.

“Nothing’s off limits in a barbershop,” said Vinny Frederico, owner and head barber at Vinny’s Barbershop on Western Avenue.

He’s not lying.

Like most barbershops, the conversation quickly moves from topic to topic. Ex-girlfriends, current girlfriends, other barbers, each other—no one is safe from the ribbing. “But there’s never drama,” said Frederico. “People know that what happens here, stays here.”

Vinny’s Barbershop is located in the heart of the Pine Hills, at 219 Western Ave. As a result, their clientele is largely college students. Every year, the shop gives free cuts to the baseball team at The College of Saint Rose.

The son of Italian immigrants, Frederico moved with his family from the Bronx to Albany in 1986.

“I was brought up with clippers in my hand,” said Frederico, who’s father, uncles, cousins, and brothers are also barbers. “It’s kind of like a family thing.”

After graduating from SUNY College at Oneonta in 2001, Frederico opened up his first shop on Central Avenue in Colonie. He realized that a number of his customers were college students who lacked transportation, so in 2003 he moved Vinny’s Barbershop to its current location.

The barbers at Vinny’s are trained in a specific way, catering to their college and urban clientele. Three other barbers—Jay Bonilla, Joe Barr, and Mark Bradley—rent out booths at Vinny’s for $200 a week.

Bonilla, also from the Bronx, has been cutting hair for 10 years. Bonilla was one of the original barbers at Vinny’s Central Avenue location. He recently reconnected with Frederico, and has been at the current shop for the past seven months.

Like many barbers, both Barr and Bradley grew up cutting their friends’ hair, and decided to expand on their craft.

Bradley has been at Vinny’s for four years, and cutting hair for nearly two decades. Before cutting hair at Vinny’s, Bradley was a barber at Super Mario Bros and Crossgates Mall.

“It’s more of a pleasant, family atmosphere,” said Bradley of Vinny’s.

Barr moved from Long Island to Albany to attend barber school. One day while getting his hair cut at Vinny’s, Frederico heard Barr mention the name of his instructor, who had apprenticed under Frederico’s father. The next day, Barr dropped out of barber school and began apprenticing with Frederico. Now, said Barr, “I could probably do a two-fade with my eyes closed.”

Frederico also owns shops in Malta, and Slingerlands, though he says the clientele is very different. His next plan is to open up his own barber school, and train barbers the way he was trained, so they can manage his shops for him. -30-


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