Blawnox businessman masters art of being barber
Watching Bill Olivani with his barber's shears in his hand is to watch a master at work.
Although Olivani has been part of a Blawnox tradition for only 15 years, he has been cutting hair for almost five decades.
Stepping into his shop is like taking a step back in time.
The tri-colored pole — the traditional symbol of a barber shop — signals Olivani's location along Freeport Road in the heart of the Blawnox business district.
Angelo Ruggerio opened the shop in 1951.
The barber chairs are two of the original chrome seats.
Olivani watches TV or reads the newspaper while he waits for customers to fill those seats, but he says there is a lot to do to keep the shop looking good.
“There's always a lot of cleaning to do, too,” he says.
The broom and mop come out after a customer leaves, but customers always come first.
“We have great customers here,” he says.
Bill Dawson, who grew up in the area, says a visit to Olivani's is the total experience.
“There is no cussing or swearing or spitting,” Dawson says.
Olivani is organized and sharp on the details of his profession.
He does his best work on each customer even though he is working through pain.
The decades of standing while he works have taken their toll.
He has survived a hip replacement, and 10 years ago he was told to he will need to have his knees replaced.
He plans to follow that advice and will be out of action for about three weeks following the procedure.
While he recovers, his youngest son, Jeff, will take over his duties at the shop.
Olivani says he is confident in his son's work
“I'll be able to come in and sit. I'm really happy with how (my son) is doing,” he says.
Family is important to Bill and his wife, Judy, who grew up in Etna.
“I got the best,” Olivani says. “She's a great mother. We enjoy our kids.”
He says the family had children in college for a total of 27 years.
To help cover the cost or raising the family, he worked two jobs during most of his adult life.
After his stint in serving with the military in Vietnam, he worked at LTV until it closed in 1994.
“We tried to be good parents and not get knocked out by bumps in the road,” he says.
Even when their son Gary died, they have kept on.
Family pictures surround Olivani as he works in the barber shop.
It is these details that keep this gentle man going, working at the job he enjoys.
Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- St. Margaret Foudation Aspinwall Catholic students team up to bring holiday spirit to hospital patients
- Students work with Fox Chapel Area artist-in-residence to create permanent piece
- Santa scheduled to visit Blawnox to light up holiday season
- Budget proposal keeps Fox Chapel tax rate steady
- Store owner’s mother excited to help as holidays draw near