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Flushing barber loses shop after 36 years in business

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Eddie’s barbershop, officially known as Northern and Parsons on its business card, does not show its age.

The shop, which has been at 144-13 Northern Blvd. for nearly 40 years, was renovated in the 1980s and the interior reflects the decorating trends of that decade.

In one corner is an exception — an old-fashioned red-and-white barber’s pole, a reminder of the store’s history. But the pole soon may be a memory as well.

The store’s lease has run out, and the business has until June to close down, said its owner, Eddie Vassallo.

“The landlord called me up and said he didn’t want to renew the lease,” he said. “I have no choice.”

Steven Brown, director of operations for the building’s managing company, Midwood Management Corp., and spokesman for the building’s owner as well would not comment on the shop’s situation.

Vassallo, 57, who immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1960, came to the shop in 1966.

The shop opened at its current location in about 1964 after having been located across the street for more than a decade, Vassallo said.

Vassallo was no stranger to the hair-cutting business. He had begun working as a barber’s apprentice in Italy at the age of 13.

Vassallo, who now lives in Maspeth, worked hard at the Flushing job and rarely went on vacation.

In 1975, he bought the business and that same year Vassallo hired his brother, Angelo.

The brothers worked side by side for 22 years, until Angelo Vassallo died of cancer in 1997.

“We were together for a long time,” Vassallo said.

In October 2000, Vassallo’s previous lease expired. Instead of extending the lease for the usual five years, Midwood Management set the expiration for January 2002.

On Jan. 31, Vassallo’s lease expired without being renewed.

John Usden, the owner of the building, told the barber he would find the shop another location to move into and not to worry, Vassallo said.

“He told me, ‘Stay put and I’ll see what I can do,’ ” Vassallo said. “At that point, I didn’t look for anything else because he’d do something for me.”

But Usden, who had another spot in mind for the barbershop, found out that it would not be available for another year, Vassallo said, and Eddie’s barbershop was told to clear out by the beginning of the summer. He is now looking for another place to rent space.

Michael Christofidis, who took Angelo Vassallo’s place after he died, has been cutting hair since 1962, and was hoping to work at the shop for many more years.

“Where I go, I stay for a long time,” he said.

Patrons described themselves as strongly loyal to the business.

“I come here twice a week just for the sake of being in their company,” said Michael Vitola, a customer who has frequented the shop for more than 20 years. “It’s like a family here.”

Vassallo, who pays just under $2,100 a month in rent, said he would have been willing to negotiate on the amount had his landlord asked.

“If they would have asked me for higher rent, then we could have worked it out.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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