Blawnox businessman masters art of being barber

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

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.

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