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New Ken hairstylist turns customers into readers

| Monday, Nov. 17, 2003

NEW KENSINGTON: Get a haircut. Walk away with a suspense/mystery/romance book.

That's how it has worked the past year for customers of Alida Baronie's beauty shop at 718 Beech St. in New Kensington. She may be the only Valley hairstylist who also offers her customers a mini-library.

"That's the first thing they do before they get their hair done," Baronie said. "They want to look at the books."

By "the books," Baronie means the stacks of 100-or-so paperback and hardback novels that beckon to customers from her windowsill. Patrons are welcome to keep the books they check out. But if they discover that the books are absolute page-turners, they must return said blockbuster for others to enjoy, Baronie said.

Her original book supplier was her oft-reading sister-in-law, Karen Baronie of Arnold. She dropped off the initial set of 100 books to the beauty shop about a year ago to avoid throwing them out.

Since then, customers have added their own gently used books to the library, creating a kind of ownership in this burgeoning book club.

"Reading is so relaxing -- it just takes you somewhere else. When I'm done with a book, it feels like someone's not there," Alida Baronie said.

Her favorite authors are suspense/romance writers Barbara Delinsky and Nora Roberts.

"They take me to the place," Baronie said. "Nora Roberts had a trilogy set in Ireland ("Born in Fire," "Born in Ice" and "Born in Shame"). I was there. I could see the green."

That Baronie's hairstyling shop is thriving today, a testament to the power of family.

A few years ago, Baronie's basement was not the sparkling hair salon it is today. A major remodeling job was needed to spruce it up for the public.

Enter her dad, Gino, a longtime self-employed carpenter. He led the work, with Baronie and her husband Joseph assisting. The job lasted one arduous year, but in May 1998, she opened for business.

The Pittsburgh Beauty Academy (New Kensington) graduate was finally her own boss after years of sharpening her shears skills at local shops like Fantastic Sam's in New Kensington and Hillcrest Hair Design in Lower Burrell.

Baronie wells up with tears recalling her father's dedication and encouragement to strike off on her own and open her own shop.

While her dad has since died, the Baronie generations continue. The newest member of the family, granddaughter Zaynah Baronie, was born almost three weeks ago. She'd like to pass on her enjoyment of reading to this youngster.

Some among her tight-knit customer base of probably more than 100 people have dropped off gifts for the baby before darting away with a thriller novel.

Additional Information:

Alida Baronie

Age: 42.

Hometown: New Kensington.

Family: Father, Gino, deceased; mother Loretta Pesce of New Kensington; sisters Gina Abdallah of New Kensington and Debbie Morgan of Illinois; husband Joseph; sons Shaun, 20, and Seth, 18; granddaughter, Zaynah Baronie, two weeks.

Favorite thing about the Valley: 'Just having people around me I know. Even though it's declining, I still love it.'

Motto: 'If you want it bad enough, you can get it.'

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