Frabotta’s clients have become his friends. “A lot of them, I’ve been cutting their hair for 50 years, and I cut their kids’ hair for 30 years … and then some move away and when they have a little boy, they come back to get him his first haircut from me,” Frabotta says. “It’s a family thing.”
The same is true a couple doors down from Frabotta’s shop at Village Barber Shop, 947 Main St., run by Wayne and Nancy Reisinger. They moved into their building a few years after Frabotta and have been operating ever since. “When we’re on vacation, we tell customers to go to Bob’s, and vice-versa,” says Wayne Reisinger, adding that the independence of running a business is what initially drew him to barbering. He grew up in the Mentor area on a farm and came to Grafton when he was 19, calling the town a “nice, homey experience.”
The Reisingers, who live in Elyria, set up shop in Grafton because Wayne was filling in for another barber in town at his shop. That was back in 1971. “I thought I’d stay for few months until he found his niche in life … so there it is,” he laughs. “I’ve been here every since.”
Nancy Reisinger has been running the Village Barber Shop for the last 30 years while Wayne works full-time as a registered nurse at University Elyria Medical Center. “I come in on my days off or after work. It’s a nice transition from a high-stress job to a little lower-stress job,” he says of his ability to unwind while barbering.
As for Frabotta, he attended barber school right after graduating from high school in 1962. “I was 17, so I couldn’t really do anything, you know? All of the auto plants were hiring, but you had to be 18 or better,” he says. “And, I just wanted to have a profession.”
Frabotta’s uncle was a barber, and he thought he’d follow his footsteps. After barber school, Frabotta worked as an apprentice for 18 months in town before he began working at his friend Ron Granneman’s barbershop in North Ridgeville. Even after getting his own shop in 1975, Frabotta continued full-time at Ron’s while working part-time at his own place. “I had three daughters in college at the time,” Frabotta says. In 1990, when his third child graduated, he left Ron’s.
This gave him more time to dedicate to his own shop, and to pursue endeavors such as running for public office. Frabotta served on council for 12 years, retiring from his seat in 2006. Then, the mayor appointed him to the Board of Appeals, where he is still active. Serving on city council was “something I always wanted to do,” Frabotta says. Though he was hesitant to get involved in politics as a small business owner in town.
“I talked to my customers, and I think they all thought it would be cool to just know someone on council, and so I had encouragement from them to do it, and from my wife,” he says. This was after he stopped working at Ron’s shop and he knew the public role would not pose a financial burden.
Frabotta got to know even more people in the community during his time in office. “When I walk to work every day, the policemen wave and the fire chief sometimes meets me at the park when it’s dark and puts a spotlight on and shines it up to my house.”
That’s because every morning, Frabotta — who has lived in Grafton with his wife for 48 years — walks 1.25 miles from his home in Grafton to the barber shop. This January’s cold presented several exceptions to his ritual. “That was the first time in two years I drove more than I walked in a month,” he says. “I probably haven’t driven to work 20 times in two years, and in January I drove 16 times.”
Frabotta says cutting hair is one of the things he truly loves. “You really get to know people,” he says, adding that his shop is somewhat of a landmark when people give directions. (Just look for Bob’s).
To be sure, the barber community in Grafton is a friendly one. “In the summer, we meet between our shops and talk about customers, business, friends,” Frabotta says of running a shop just one building down from the Reisingers. “We have always been friendly, we have gone to dances and we always refer each other customers.”
Frabotta says as long as the two shops are in business, he will be sending customers to his neighbor — especially during the month when he and his wife pack up for Florida. He tells clients, “Keep your money in town,” adding, “there’s a really nice camaraderie.”
Bob Frabotta keeps a pot of coffee brewing at Bob’s Barber Shop in downtown Grafton. His door’s always open, and plenty of regulars stop in to say hello or let him know they’ll be out on the green for the weekly tee time he holds on Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m.
“Sometimes we have eight guys, other times there is five of us — there’s no reservation, you just show up,” says Frabotta, relating how many customers have become friends during the near 40 years he has been in business. The shop opened in 1975.
Customers feel comfortable asking Frabotta to lend a hand. One client, who has been getting his hair cut at Bob’s for a good 30 years, asked Frabotta if he’d help carry his wife out of their apartment to the car so he could drive her to a doctor’s appointment. “When I was cutting his hair, he asked me if I could help him out, and I said I’d be happy to,” Frabotta says.
Another loyal customer, who transferred to Kentucky with Ford (Motor Co.) more than 10 years ago, still returns to Bob’s to get his hair cut when he comes home to Grafton to see family. “He was just in the other day,” Frabotta says. “He always calls to make sure I’ll be around because he knows in the last few years I’ve been semi-retired.”
During winter, Frabotta and his wife go to Englewood Beach, Fla., a town that reminds him a bit of Grafton because of the quaint downtown area — except the weather’s a lot more attractive during winter. In Florida, Frabotta plays golf with friends whose hair he used to cut in
Frabotta’s shop is a family tradition for generations who take their sons to get their first haircuts there. Of course, he remembers when long hair was in style for boys, and they’d come in protesting the cut their parents demanded. “I’d talk to them and say, ‘I’m not going to cut it that short, I’ll work with you … I’ll do what I have to do to make your dad happy,’ ” he says.
“You didn’t want to make them too mad because they were your future customers,” says. And that has indeed been the case. The youngest haircut Frabotta ever gave was to a 6-month-old boy who was born with a crop of hair. “The dads back then wanted their sons to look like boys and if they had a lot of hair, they were dying to get them in for a cut,” he laughs.
He remembers giving a first haircut to quadruplets. The mom and dad took turns bringing children in, one by one, while the others waited in the car. He never got a group picture of the little ones since they took their turn in the chair, but he has their individual first haircut shots. Often, that first cut draws an entire audience. “You get the whole family in the shop — grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, brothers and sisters,” he says.
The shop feels like home.
The People Business
The customer’s always right, and one of your most important jobs is to listen. These truths bridge Wayne Reisinger’s two careers, one as a barber and owner of The Village Barber, and the other as a registered nurse working in home care services for University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center. “There are some similarities between the two jobs with all of the people contact and professionalism — but the barber is a little more relaxed,” he says, laughing.
Reisinger has been a barber for 44 years, and a nurse for 23. “That’s almost a full lifetime,” he remarks.
Reisinger went back to school in his thirties, taking classes at Lorain County Community College (LCCC). “I didn’t really set out to be a nurse. I was probably going to get a business degree … I don’t even know how it evolved. I had some friends who were in nursing, and I began taking some classes.”
Nursing was a natural fit for Reisinger, who had been in the people business for two decades before pursuing higher education. He celebrated his 40th birthday and earned his nursing degree at the same time. He thought he’d leave barbering then — but that never happened. “I was not even off for a week,” he says. “It’s different when you have your own place. You keep pursuing more customers, and so that is the way that evolved.”
Reisinger’s wife, Nancy, was also working at The Village Barber while he was working in nursing part-time. He eventually went fulltime and spends “off days” at the barber shop. Now, Reisinger works two days in the hospital managing home care intake and other scheduling duties, two days in the field seeing patients in their homes, and spends the remainder of his time cutting hair at the shop.
“It’s fun to be here at the shop. We know the customers. We can joke around and laugh together,” Reisinger says. Though, his nursing role is equally rewarding. “It’s great to see patients meet their goals to become healthier and increase their function.”