Visiting Renato's Barbershop in Rotterdam, you would think you were back in 1955. The barbers still use hot lather and straight razors and still sharpen those razors on leather straps attached to 1950s-style chairs.
The Viscusi family owns this barbershop, and have owned a barbershop in the Schenectady area since they arrived in the United States. On April 18, Bernardino Bernie Viscusi celebrated his 50th anniversary in the United States and more 50 years of barbering.
Viscusi began his career as a barber while he was living in Squille, Italy. He was only 13 when he learned the trade, and he opened his own shop at 16. In a village of 1,500 people, there was only one barbershop, and it belonged to him.
"After World War II, children in Italy had the opportunity to learn a trade. I chose to be a barber," Viscusi said.
Viscusi's father came to the United States in 1954 and eventually brought over his entire family of five boys and two girls.
Upon his arrival, Viscusi was introduced to one of his father's barbers and began working in that shop, The Three Blind Mice Barbershop, in Schenectady.
"My first haircut, I only charged 75 cents, now I charge $12," Viscusi said.
In 1959, Viscusi established his own barbershop, Bernie's Barbershop, on lower Broadway in Schenectady.
Stan Ostergren from Niskayuna has been getting his hair cut at Bernie's since 1970.
"I was working at GE; I said, 'I need a haircut,' and they told me to take the subway to this place, and I've been coming here ever since," Ostergren said.
In 1969, Viscusi took a position with General Electric. The long hairstyles of the day had taken a toll on the barbering business. He still operated Bernie's Barbershop with his younger brother Renato Viscusi, whom he had taught.