'Binky' Sages a real sage in the barbering business
For Joseph Sages, being a barber is a family affair.
He grew up in his father's Uniontown barbershop, watching and learning. When Sages was 12 years old, his dad, Joseph Sages Sr., began to apprentice him in the family trade — a profession that included his mother's father and all of his mother's brothers. At age 14, the younger Sages got his own barber's license after passing a test in Pittsburgh.
That was 60 years ago.
Now 72, Sages is still armed with shears and clippers in his Connellsville shop — but most of his customers haven't the faintest clue that his first name is Joe. They just hail him as Binky the barber; you know, the guy whose shop has been located in — and next to — Connellsville Shopping Center for 50 years.
Walk in and wait
At Binky's Barber Shop, there are no appointments. Shaggy-haired customers walk in, wait and catch up on all the latest news. Sages says he's heard it all during the past half-century, listening to the troubles and triumphs of those whose hair he trims.
“I should write a book,” he declared. “Sometimes I feel like Dear Abby!”
Sages' childhood home was on Uniontown's Lenox Street; his dad's barbershop was on Morgantown Street (where Hostetler's Jewelry Store is now located). When his uncle opened a beauticians school, Sages added that license to his barber's certificate.
“I did some beautician's work for a while, but I didn't like to deal with things like permanents and colorings. It took too long,” he said. “I decided I just wanted to cut hair. You'd be amazed how many haircuts you can do in one day as a barber.”
Sages was lured to Connellsville when he learned that barber Alex Giobbi was ill.
“I'd heard that he was a really good barber, so I checked it out.” Giobbi's shop was in Connellsville Shopping Center. Sages worked alongside him until Giobbi passed away after suffering a heart attack. The shop was renamed Binky's and remained at that location for 30 years.
Twenty years ago, Sages decided to move across the street. He fixed up a small house on York Avenue and added a paved parking area for customer convenience. Although it's mostly men who line up for a haircut, Sages has no qualms about trimming women's hair.
He said the hair-cutting trade hasn't changed much during the last 60 years; almost everyone needs a trim — it's part of life. The one area of barbering that is different is the decline of the straight razor, although Sages still uses one every so often.
“In this day and age, people are worried about sanitation and AIDS. Even though I have two heavy-duty sterilizers, I'm more comfortable shying away from the razor.”
Trims all ages
“I get customers of all ages, old people to little kids,” he added. “I cut them all — as long as they hold still. I'm not a magician; I can't cut something that moves.”
The years of standing have taken a toll on Sages' legs, although he said he still gets around OK for the most part. Nowadays, he works only in the mornings, usually returning home by lunchtime. He cuts as much grass as hair; he and his wife of 48 years, Cecilia, live on Eighty Acres Road (formerly known as Ray's Lake Road).
The couple travels a lot, especially since Cecilia retired from her nursing career at Uniontown Hospital. They enjoy visiting their two sons and daughter, all whom live out of state. They have six grandchildren.
“One of my sons has considered getting a barber's license; the other doesn't want to have anything to do with hair,” said Sages, who said his family would like him to “just quit already.”
He's had some offers to buy his business, but he's holding onto his shears and clippers. At least for now.
“Heck, that's why my wife married me! She knew she'd have free haircuts for life,” Sages joked.
He said he is proud that his barbershop has been voted “Best Barber Shop in Connellsville” in The Daily Courier's People's Choice Awards program: “It's a real honor.”
Laura Szepesi is a contributing writer.