Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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April 25, 2014

CLOSING SHOP

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Mike Reale has been cutting men’s hair in the Village of Middleport for decades. On Saturday, he’ll cut his last head of hair, marking the end of an era that stretches all the way back to 1956.

“Everything comes to an end, I guess,” he said yesterday, as he cut long time patron Herb Koenig’s hair for the last time. “Eventually.”

A lifelong resident of Middleport, Reale, 84, opened Mike’s Barbershop on Main Street in 1977. Before that, he was located on State Street. Altogether, he’s been providing the males of Middleport with crew cuts and flat tops for 58 years. 

“He has been here all these years,” his wife of 57 years, Patricia Reale, said. “He’s cut everyone’s hair.”

Cutting hair stemmed out of the need to “better” himself after serving in the military during the Korean War, he said. He had some practice while serving in the Merchant Marines and then in Korea, where he used a sheer and a comb to cut the men’s hair.

“I didn’t realize I was getting the practice,” he said. “It came natural, monkeying around like that.”

After going to barber school and serving an apprenticeship with another village barber, Norm Fowler, Reale opened his own place, cutting the hair of village dignitaries, doctors, children and farmers over the years.   

“He had guys coming here all the way from Two Bridges, from Barker and Wolcottsville,” Patricia said. “All over. The farmers would come in and you could smell the manure and see the mud. They felt comfortable.”

When Reale started, a haircut in Middleport cost $1. The price eventually went up to the $10 he’s charging now.

“I’m behind the times,” he said, adding that salons charge significantly more than he does. “I’m glad I’m getting done.”

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