The days of the "red rocket" are gone at Len's Barber Shop. Yet the sense of community and family atmosphere in the shop remain.
This month, Len Kennan is celebrating his 20th year in business along Railroad Street in New Milford.
The red rocket kid's chair familiar to many patrons was taken out with a remodeling.
But each boy getting his first haircut still has his picture taken, and his folks are given an envelope with clippings of his hair.
"Customers become friends," Mr. Kennan reflected. "You watch generations of children grow to become adults."
He remembers the first time he trimmed the signature goatee of Skitch Henderson, a New Milford resident renowned as the conductor the New York Pops.
"I'd just cut his hair and Skitch said `How about giving my goat tee a little trim.' It was an `Oh, my God' moment," Mr. Kennan recalled.
Jeff Hackett, of Pawling, N.Y., has been a regular customer from Day One.
"I have very thick hair that was always tough to have cut right," Mr. Hackett said. "Len is meticulous and he does a great job. "Sometimes I'll trim it myself if I can't make it over to New Milford. I'll go in and say, `I did it again.' And Len will make it right."
Fourteen years ago, Chris Kennan joined his father as a barber. As a boy, he had swept hair from the shop floor. Today, at age 30, he is a partner in the business.
"My great-grandfather, Tony (Ventrella), started teaching me how to cut hair when I was a boy," Chris Kennan said. "I went to Henry Abbott Tech to learn barbering and joined Dad here after I graduated."
"I'd worked at two barber shops in Danbury and wanted to own my own shop," the elder Mr. Kennan recalled. "My wife's grandfather, Tony Ventrella, helped me get started. Tony, then 80, had been a barber all his life."
The first days were admittedly rough, Mr. Kennan recalled. The storefront at 28 Railroad St. had been empty for some time and everything inside was in disarray.
In 11 days time from signing the lease, Len's Barber Shop was open. The room was drafty, the day was freezing and the temperature in the shop barely hit 40 degrees, Mr. Kennan recalled.
"I had two customers that first day," Mr. Kennan recalled. "I said to myself, `What are you doing?' But customers came the next day and the day after that."
Len's Barber Shop has been recently remodeled.
Fresh paint and new cherry-wood work stations and mirrors help make the shop even brighter and more welcoming. Coffee and tea are brewing. Satellite radio plays.
And those initial chilly draft is long gone.
Len's Barber Shop is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information, visit www.lensbarbershop.com.
For more photos, visit www.newmilfordspectrum.com.