When a local businessman wanted to show his appreciation to essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, he sought out Anthony Fiore, owner of Caravelli’s Barbershop in Haddonfield.
He handed Fiore $5,000 with just one stipulation: It be used to fund free haircuts for essential workers.
The donor insisted that he himself not be identified to recipients. And he wanted Fiore to be the sole judge of who’d receive gratis services.
“All I can say is that he is a young, successful business person who said he helped other Haddonfield businesses as well,” said Fiore of the donor. “He kind of left it up to me and trusted I would do the right thing.”
The free cuts started on June 22, and the $5,000 has since been entirely dispensed, paying for free clips for doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, EMT workers, and supermarket employees, among others.
“It was quite a list of people,” said Fiore.
He waited until the money was exhausted before going public about the donor’s gift, he said, because he wanted the free haircuts to go to regular patrons of the barbershop.
One of them is Phil Gatti, a nurse with the Veterans Administration in Philadelphia who lives in Haddonfield.
“When it was first mentioned to me, I was taken aback,” Gatti said. “It was really a nice gesture.”
So nice, in fact, that Gatti was skeptical when he was told it was on the house.
“I thought he was joking,” said Gatti, who moved from New York six years ago and immediately became a customer at Caravelli’s Barbershop.
“It is always very friendly there,” he said.
Another regular, Fred Shindle, a nurse at Cooper University Hospital who lives in Mount Ephraim, was overwhelmed when he learned that his haircut was already paid for.
“I was kind of blown away,” Shindle said. “I do my job because I want to help others, and I am happy to do it. For somebody to go out of their way in return made me feel special.”
The pulse of Haddonfield and surrounding South Jersey communities can be taken at this barbershop, which was founded in 1902 (even though the pole in front of the shop dates only to 1947). Anthony Fiore’s father, Mike Fiore, purchased the place in 1998.
Anthony Fiore hadn’t originally intended to go into the business. After graduating from Rutgers University-Camden in 2003, he took an insurance job.
“I realized it wasn’t for me,” he said. “My dad said, ‘Go get your barber’s license.’”
Fiore, now 39, joined the shop in 2005, making him a fourth-generation barber, and bought the shop in 2012. His father still comes in and occasionally helps out.
Fiore loves the barbering business because it puts him in contact with so many extraordinary people, many of whom he missed during the three months and three days his shop was closed because of COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, Caravelli’s was a walk-in barbershop. Now, to ensure social distancing, appointments are needed, and Fiore has had to downsize from four work stations to three. (The best way to book a service is at caravellisbarbershop.com.)
Business has slowly begun to pickup, he said.
“Some of the old faces are showing up, but generally people are waiting a longer time between haircuts because they aren’t going out as much,” he said.
So, much has changed — but not the spirit that pervades the 118-year-old business.
As happy customer Fred Shindle noted, “You definitely feel the camaraderie.”
And that, said Fiore, is what he strives for at his barbershop. He wants everybody to feel at home, whether they’ve received a free haircut or not.