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Rediscovering the Barbershop

Kennedy's All American Barber Club in West Hartford's Blue Back Square serves gentlemen looking for a fine grooming experience.

The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate our nation’s history with traditions and rituals that have been a part of families for many years. There will be parades, sparklers, corn on the cob, pies, and patriotic clothing ensembles.

While these American traditions have remained steadfast, some, so popular at one time, have disappeared. A new business in is bringing back one of those nearly extinct customs – the old-fashioned barbershop strictly for men.

Between the 1880s and the 1960s, barbershops were more than just a place for men to get a haircut. They were hangouts where men would go, sometimes once a week, to fraternize with their friends and talk about “manly” subjects like politics, cars, sports and women. In between haircuts, they would recline in plush barber chairs and enjoy a close shave with warm cream and a straight razor.

Over the years, traditional barbershops became scarcer as men embraced longer hair, beards, and unisex salons that offered spa services that they could not find at the tiny shops. Strip mall economy haircutting salons opened in every town, with an assembly-like format that got customers in and out in 20 minutes.

Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club wants to bring back the lost art of straight razor shaves, meticulous haircuts, and male bonding in a gentlemen’s club atmosphere that is membership-based. As their website states, “Kennedy’s is designed to be much more than simply a place for men to get a haircut and/or shave. We like to think of it as a sanctuary of sorts – somewhere real Gentlemen can relax and enjoy a few minutes away from the hectic place of everyday life.”

And relax they can … whether it be in one of the old-school, leather barber chairs in the grooming room, or kicking back in the member’s lounge outfitted with a billiard and poker table, bar area, and television. For a monthly fee, barber club members can enjoy a multitude of perks, including unlimited haircuts, shaves, spa services and access to the lounge.

Kennedy’s opened last November and it has slowly and steadily been gaining members. Manager Marisa Caisse came to the barber club from a background in retail management and she says that these past months have been very rewarding for her “opening up a store and making it bloom.” Caisse has nothing but praise for the unique franchise that now; with the opening of the Blue Back Square location, there are now six in Connecticut.

“We are a traditional type of barbershop but we are also different because we offer manicures, pedicures, waxing and even shoe shines – the salon services combined with a club-like setting. Men can now come to Kennedy’s to be groomed, be with their friends and network. They get it all in one place.”

The interior is warm and cozy with the barber side of the shop decorated with a black-and-white checkered floor and burgundy-colored walls accented with black wood paneling. Cushy, reclining leather barber chairs line one wall.

The club room is separated from the grooming area by a wall. It is decorated with a striped wood floor and tall wood bookshelves lined with “manly” tomes. A bar area with a variety of coffee and teas is in a corner. The shop does not have a license to sell hard liquor but Kennedy’s will be happy to have members bring their own spirits to drink and store them for later use.

There are a variety of different memberships to choose from. The the top of the range, there’s “The Ultimate Gentlemen’s Experience,” comprising the “life” membership. It includes unlimited haircuts with priority reservation status, unlimited straight razor shaves, facials, waxing, sport manicures, shoe-shines and chair massages after every haircut. Fathers may bring their sons under the age of 18 for unlimited haircuts as well. This premier membership also gives a member full access to the club room.

Other memberships include the “Liberty,” the “Pursuit of Happiness,” and “The Basic Gentleman,” that allows for only unlimited haircuts.

All memberships are paid on a monthly basis. For an extra charge, men can add on their sons aged 13 to 17 so that they too can have unlimited haircuts with Dad.

Caisse states that the shop encourages fathers and sons to come and enjoy the setting. “It’s a family-oriented place. The guys should be able to bring their sons and it’s a bonding experience for all of them.”

Yet it’s certainly not necessary to be a member to enjoy a close shave and a haircut. Walk-ins are welcome and anybody can request services a la carte, yet Caisse confirms that members will always have special reservation priority. “We definitely recommend appointments.”

She also mentions the benefit of having a place to go to business network. “We hold events here so that we can get all of our members to meet each other. Our members invite their people, too, so we get businesses collaborating with each other.”

Bob La Perla, owner of , has been a member of Kennedy’s since it opened a few doors down from his store. “Working very hard in this day and age, it’s nice to occasionally get pampered. You go in for a haircut and they give you hot towel, a facial, they shampoo your hair and they cut your hair beautifully. Then there is the pool table and they are happy to keep a bottle of the hard stuff over there so you can entertain. It’s a novel idea and a lot of fun.”

Caisse refers to past traditions time and again. When asked why Kennedy’s is called an “All American Barber’s Club,” she reflects for a minute. “Barbershops were a traditional American thing and they have gone away. The straight razor shave was a talent that has been lost. We wanted to bring back a place where men can get a shave, a haircut and enjoy their time and relax. We are trying to bring that back to the community. That’s why we call it the All American Barber Club … it’s an American tradition that was lost and they are trying to bring it back.”

Kennedy’s All American Barber Club is located at 107 Memorial Road. For more information about services and fees, or if you’re interested in becoming a franchiser, go to their website at www.kennedysbarberclub.com  or phone Marisa Caisse at 860-216-0583.

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