FERGUS – Frank Moretti has spent more than 50 years cutting hair, 30 of those from his second-storey barbershop overlooking St. Andrew Street.
And on May 20, he’s bidding farewell to Fergus.
Moretti’s for Men will close and Frank, who is 80, will retire.
Cutting hair, it seems, is in his family’s genetic make-up.
Frank and his three brothers all wound up in the hair business, working together for a time and separately for a long time.
After attending barber school in Toronto in the 1960s, Frank started working in his cousin’s barbershop in Guelph when he graduated.
There he gained knowledge and experience to add to his training.
His brother Peter, who was dating a woman in Fergus (she later became Peter’s wife), mentioned that a new plaza was being built in Fergus.
“Fergus was still a small town back then – 3,000 or 4,000 people,” said Frank.
“There were only a few barbers and most of them were ready to retire.”
The brothers saw an opportunity and opened Highland Barber Shop in that plaza in 1969.
Ten years later, they bought a house on Tower Street where all four brothers – Frank, Peter, Randy and Dario – operated a hair salon along with their brother-in-law Kevin.
“It was all in the family,” Frank joked.
There they cut men’s hair on the ground floor and women’s hair upstairs.
In 1987, Randy and Peter opened their own businesses in Guelph and Frank and Dario moved to 169 St. Andrew St.
“I never cut women’s hair, just men’s – so that’s when it became a barber shop,” Frank said.
Dario left some years later, “so I’ve been on my own for 30 years,” he added.
Some of his clients have been with him for 50 years. Some brought their own kids and then their grandkids.
Frank recalled when Peter Marucci, a local writer and magician, decided to cut off his hair in support of a cancer fundraiser.
Frank shaved his head, the press was there, and when it was done, he handed Marucci a sucker – “Like I did for the kids, when they were good.”
He pulled a frame from a drawer with a collection of photos from that event. One showed Marucci bursting into laughter when handed the sucker.
“That’s a good memory,” Frank said. “I’ll keep that.”
His perch over St. Andrew Street was a great spot for watching the Santa Claus parade and he’d invite customers to bring their kids and grandkids to watch from inside.
For years his customers would drop in, shoot the breeze, and solve the world’s problems while waiting for a cut.
That’s why he’s kept working so long.
“These guys were my friends. To me they were my family,” he said.
“If I worked in a factory, I probably would have retired at 65. But this was like a social club – the jokes, the coffees. I kind of miss that.”
COVID-19 forced Frank to switch to cuts by appointment, so it’s a quiet place these days.
He scaled back his hours to four days a week, but it’s still a lot for him to work from 8am to 6pm and commute from Guelph, where he lives.
“I didn’t have a hobby. What was I going to do?” he said of working long past the time most people retire.
“But now I want to spend time with my wife (Connie), my two boys (Mark and Jamie) and my granddaughter (Sofia). That little girl is everything to me.”
But before he goes, Frank’s planning an open house on May 20, with refreshments and the chance to catch up with old friends and clients, and to thank the community for providing him with a good living and a good life.
Details of that event will be announced closer to the date.
“I just want to thank everyone,” he said.
“I never had any regrets. This town has been good to me.”