By Maria Rocha-Buschel
It’s the end of an era for Sigfrido’s Barbershop on First Avenue with the retirement of barber and co-owner Andy Evangelista after almost 50 years, but he likes to think of it as a sort of beginning.
“It’s sad in a way to leave but I’m happy to start a new adventure with my family,” he said, explaining that he and his wife have a number of trips planned following his departure from the shop after the end of this month.
Ruben Aronov, who’s been working at the business for the past 11 years, has taken over Evangelista’s stake in the business. There’s also another owner named Sam Sagykov.
Evangelista has been working at the shop since 1968 when he was 19 years old. One of his brothers is the shop’s namesake, Sigfrido, who started the business seven years earlier with his brother-in-law, Nunzio.
Sigfrido came to the United States in 1959 and helped take care of the paperwork so that his other brothers could come to New York as well.
Evangelista said that he was meant to make the trip in 1963 but was delayed because of President John Kennedy’s assassination and he ultimately made the trip five years later.
The wait was short compared to the time Evangelista had been hoping to come to the U.S.
“I wanted to go to the United States as a young child,” he said. “It’s everybody’s dream. It’s the land of the free and I feel that it’s the greatest country on earth.”
He added that the experience has lived up to his expectations.
“I’m very happy to be here and to have started a family here,” he said.
Stuyvesant Town resident John Duffy said that he’s been living in the neighborhood about the same amount of time that the barbershop has been around and three generations of his family have had their hair cut there.
“My two sons used to go there from the times they started getting haircuts and my grandson goes there for his haircuts now,” he said. “They’re wonderful people and it’s a great place to go.”
Duffy isn’t the only customer who has passed the tradition along to his sons and grandsons. Evangelista said that there is one family who had four generations in the shop at once, from the great-grandfather to the great-grandson, all of whom had their hair cut at Sigfrido’s over the years.
One notable father-son team that continues to frequent the shop is former NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly and his son, Greg Kelly, a broadcast journalist who co-hosts the morning show Good Day New York on Fox5.
Tony Gonzalez, who was getting a haircut from Evangelista at Sigfrido’s this past Tuesday, is one of the loyal customers who returns to the shop even after having moved out of the neighborhood. He said that he first got his hair cut at the shop when he was seven while living on East 18th Street just west of First Avenue and he continues to come back from Hell’s Kitchen.
“Andy’s skill is the speed that he uses with the machine,” Gonzalez said, referring to the electric razor Evangelista was using to shear his hair. “Then he uses the rest of the time to talk.”
“We learn from each other,” Evangelista added. “You’re never too old to grow younger.”
Lifelong Peter Cooper Village resident and City Council candidate Keith Powers said that he’ll be sad to see Evangelista go, especially since the barber had the special privilege of giving a young Powers his very first haircut.
“Andy gave me my first haircut and I’ve been going there for 32 years since then,” Powers said. “It’s one of the places that’s a true neighborhood place. You have a relationship with the guys there and Andy’s been part of that.”
He added, though, that his disappointment at Evangelista’s retirement won’t send him looking for a new barber.
“Once people have been there, they really appreciate the character and will come back even if they don’t live across the street anymore,” he said. “It’s not common to find a business like that anymore but they’re really integrated in the community. I’ll certainly still be a loyal customer.”
Correction: The headline of this story said that Evangelista was a co-owner of Sigfrido’s. However, he has been the sole owner of the business since his brother Bruno retired in 2011. The two became partners in 1998 when Sigfrido retired and Evangelista became the sole owner upon Bruno’s retirement.