Plain and simple, Pete's Suniland Barber Shop in Pinecrest, FL is a Miami institution. For more than 55 years, the shop has welcomed young and old for a good haircut at a fair price. The atmosphere and conversation aren't too shabby either.
Started in 1956 by Pete Ramicci, Pete's Suniland Barber Shop was the very first store at the Suniland Shopping Center. Right from the start, the barber shop was known for taking care of young and old alike. Pete created a diploma for first-time haircuts. That ceremony remains today, as do many of the shop's customers. "I got my first haircut by a 'barber' at Pete's, I am now 54 years old and still only go to Pete's," writes a customer on Nickolodeon's ParentConnect website.
On the same site, another patron writes: "Pete's Barber is the only place where my son will go and sit for a haircut. All of the staff are very patient with children and work fast to get them in and out of the chair. I wouldn't take him anywhere else." I couldn't agree more. At present, I and my son (now 8...and who has his Pete's diploma) have a monthly ritual of going to get our haircuts together. My father also goes to Pete's when he is in town.
Every trip is an interesting mix of old and new. The barbers are still using the classic chairs, scissors, razors and equipment; yet, they and the patrons are getting the latest styles, using cell phones to make appointments and playing the latests apps on their handheld devices. The conversation is always jovial and friendly.
Howard Fairfield (age 74, pictured above), the current owner, took over in 1964 and has not only continued some pretty great tradition, but added some too. "My Dad, Ivan, used to build and sell lots of things," says Howard as he motions to the ceiling of the shop. "This is one of his first models. He built hundreds of them.
Howard builds things too. In the early days, he built custom bicycles that held multiple people, some even two levels high. One design had the rider on the 'rear' riding backwards. These bicycle creations graced the barber shop entrance not to attract attention (they did), but simply because he had nowhere else to put them. "On Saturdays, if we weren't too busy, we'd ride people around."
Now, as always, Saturday night remains beer night. For 50+ years, beginning around 5:00PM, the barbers will offer their customers a brew of their choice. They also make a mean punch for St. Patrick's Day and a few other holidays. It never gets too rowdy, but it does make for honest conversation. Apparently, unrelated to the beer, there was even a divorce that unfolded right in the shop. The stories could, and do, go on forever...
Howard stopped cutting hair in the mid-1980s, but comes in at least twice a week to visit his brother Lefty and sister Connie, who both regularly work in the shop. "I do this for all the barbers who work here," says Howard. "The rent is so high now that this is really a break-even for me, but it's well worth it so that all the employees have jobs. I can't see us ever closing our doors. We enjoy it too much."
There's no question that Pete's Suniland Barber Shop has been a centerpiece of Pinecrest, well before it incorporated in 1996. Ask any native and they'll likely tell you about Pete's in their first few sentences about "the old days." The barber shop has sponsored Little League efforts in the area for as long as many can remember...and those photos grace the storefront.
Some interesting political photos have graced the walls inside Pete's as well. All three Bush photos are there because they've each been to the shop. Jeb was a regular for many years.
Clinton also has a photo on Pete's wall very near Jeb's photos. Apparently, Clinton's color photo is a lower quality reproduction. It has turned blue over the years, much to the delight of Jeb.
Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod), NY Yankees star third baseman, was a regular for many years and often spoke to the barbers about wanting to go to Japan to play baseball professionally when he was young.
In 1988, Pete's Suniland Barber Shop moved to their current locale in the shopping center, which was the location of John Cotton's real estate office. Mr. Cotton built the original Suniland Shopping Center. History meshing with history...
About four years ago, Pete's Suniland Barber Shop was the location of a commercial shoot for Cialis. Howard says he and the barbers all asked for samples, but never got any. He also remarked that it took them nearly all day to shoot a 30-second commercial. The shop received a TV set (mounted for the shoot) and $2300 for their time. Howard promptly handed out $100 to each of his employees. "They were very happy with that."
Some of the gang (Javier, Raudel, Armando, Deg, Howard and Charlie) were kind enough to step outside and allow me to grab this photo. Most of them have been cutting hair at this shop for 25 years or more.
"Like any family, we fight sometimes," remarked Deg, "but mostly we love it. This is a great place to be." Javier worked it out with a customer recently that "over the 27 years I've been here, I've done more than 100,000 haircuts. Time flies. We have a lot of fun here." Charlie says, "I used to talk to my customers mostly about local and national politics, but I am disillusioned now...so we mostly talk sports." Raudel, who is the only barber at the shop who works 'appointment-only' chimed in, "You're a nice boy for writing this story, but your Dad is nicer. Did you tell him that?"
With all the salons and chain haircut places out there, it's nice to see that the old-fashioned barber shop is still able to survive thrive. The $15 haircut fee that gets placed into this 1946 hand-crank register is your contribution to this Pinecrest institution. The love and sense of community is what you get back...and a pretty darn good haircut too!