Caruso’s has always been the kind of place where a guy could get a decent haircut and enjoy some friendly conversation, no matter what hairstyle was “in” or “out,” no matter what topic headlined the news. After four plus decades in his shop at the corner of Washington and Bower Hill roads, Luigi Caruso retired in June. Reflecting on his longtime customers and the community, Caruso says, “I appreciate them coming over here. It’s been unbelievable. I never would have thought I’d be here 43 years. They treat me like a family member when they get a haircut.”
Caruso immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1958. He has been a barber for 60 of his 75 years. He and his brother Tom, who died in September, were two of the forerunners of an influential hair styling family in western Pennsylvania. His extended family has operated shops in the West End, Sewickley, Mt. Lebanon, Squirrel Hill and downtown Pittsburgh.
Luigi’s son, Tony Caruso, says he admired his father’s dedication to barbering. “The barbershop has been his whole life,” Tony says. “He started it from scratch. He dedicated his life to it. It’s hard for him to walk away. He’s had customers who have been going there since he started. There is quite a legacy in our family.”
Luigi Caruso was never cut out for anything but cutting hair.
“When I was a young kid, I never liked to see my hands getting dirty,” he recalls. “So I chose barbering because my mother sent me to be a mechanic or cabinet maker, and I couldn’t do it.”
Eron Gonze, 43, a barber for 25 years, has taken over the business. Describing it as “an old school barbershop,” Gonze hopes to carry on the Caruso legacy of good, friendly service.
“I just want to keep the doors open, and people will hopefully keep coming,” says Gonze.
In his years of cutting hair, Caruso has seen just about everything, as men’s hairstyles changed from very conservative to a more wild, experimental look.
Even neighborhood barbershops have to keep up fashion trends, he says:
“Years ago, everyone had short hair. Then in the ‘60s, things started going long hair. You have to change. You have to learn how to cut that kind of hair. Everyone used to get a flattop.”
Like a lot of folks, Caruso is having a hard time thinking about really retiring from the work he’s enjoyed for so many years. “It’s been great. Good customers around here,” he says. “I’m going to take a summer off, but I’m still going to come back and work a couple days a week.”