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Belmont barber, 84, hangs up his scissors

BELMONT — What’s left of Bob Muchowski’s hair falls to the familiar floor of Frank’s Barber Shop.

For who knows how long, Muchowski has been coming to Frank Cannalonga for haircuts: every three or four weeks and on special occasions, vacation and post-vacation; the days his daughters got married.

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When there was nothing left on top, Frank saw to the sides.

“Frank trims me up, so I look good walking down the aisle,” Muchowski says.

On Friday, they shook hands at the shop for the last time. Saturday, after 50 years, is the end.

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Cannalonga, 84, is calling it a career. Fred Sacco, his 79-year-old sidekick of 20 years (they cut each other’s hair), will take up residence at Jerry’s, the barber shop across the street.

“I couldn’t see signing another lease,” said Cannalonga, whose career in cuttery actually spans 60 years, owing to a decade at his brother-in-law’s shop after he got out of the service.

“I’d be 90,” he said of the prospect of signing on for another five-year stint. “Ninety is a little much.”

But 84, apparently, is not.

Not too many men have hair at 84, but Cannalonga still does, and he is still cutting it for customers every Tuesday through Saturday, though these days he usually takes Wednesdays off.

But young men with an interest in follicles don’t turn to the barber arts much these days, Sacco said, and so he and Cannalonga kept right on cutting.

“They go for the high-end stuff,” Sacco said of today’s crop of hairdressers. “Cutting women’s hair — that’s where the money is.”

By comparison, the going rate for a regular cut at Frank’s is $16 after the most recent price hike several years ago.

And so a steady stream of men stopped in Friday to chat in the chair while being made presentable. They talked sports and politics and neighborhood news and left good tips.

Cannalonga talked about the three milestones he marked in November 50 years ago. That was when he started his business, and a few days later he celebrated the birth of his son. A week or two later, someone was in Frank’s chair when Kennedy was shot.

The next five decades flew by.

Cannalonga said he might have gone another year or two, but he is content to retire now. His three children and 10 grandchildren will keep him busy. He will golf a little and visit one of the children in Florida.

“He’s a great guy, a great tenant,” said Christine McVay, senior leasing associate at Real Estate 109, which manages the property. She said there has been a lot of interest in the storefront that has been Frank’s for five decades, but no signed lease yet.

A new upscale barbershop, The Barber’s Den, will soon open next door in the space now occupied by the Christian Science Reading room, McVay said.

Cannalonga, though, will follow Sacco across the street to Jerry’s for however many haircuts he has left. So will Muchowski.

“As long as Fred watches what Frankie does today, he’ll be fine,” Muchowski said. Sacco has two more days of on-the-job training that started two decades ago.

“So what are you gonna do, Frank?” Muchowski asked, as Frank got to work on his eyebrows.

“Ah,” he said, “take it easy.”

Nestor Ramos can be reached at nestor.ramos@globe.com.
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