Murphy's Barbershop reopens in new location after fire

Owner Chris Thorp at his barbershop, Murphy's Barbershop & Social Club, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. He recently reopened the business at 52 Williams Ave. after being closed due to a Dec. 28 fire at 29 Broadway Ave.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Owner Chris Thorp at his barbershop, Murphy's Barbershop & Social Club, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. He recently reopened the business at 52 Williams Ave. after being closed due to a Dec. 28 fire at 29 Broadway Ave. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Mystic — For Jason DiCarlo, the barber-customer bond is so strong that he felt he was "cheating on" his barber when he had to get one of his twice-monthly cuts elsewhere. But on Wednesday morning, he was back in Chris Thorp's chair.

The white lettering on Thorp's "Support Good Times" T-shirt peeked out from under his vest as he buzzed the sides of DiCarlo's head.

The message reflects how Thorp approaches life, whether it's barbering at chopper shows in England and Belgium, or trying to stay positive amid a setback to a new business.

Murphy's Barbershop and Social Club had only been open for about two months when a Dec. 28 fire destroyed the interior of the 29 Broadway Ave. shop. But with help from a GoFundMe page and a former co-worker in the restaurant industry, Thorp reopened his barber shop at 52 Williams Ave. this past week.

Mystic Fire Chief Fritz Hilbert said on Friday it's "more probable than not" that the cause was electrical in nature, but the cause officially is undetermined. While many of the contents of the shop were a loss, Hilbert noted there was no structural damage, other than having to force a door open and take a window out.

Thorp said the name of his tiny new shop next to Benjamin Moore will change, but for now, it's still Murphy's Barbershop and Social Club.

Murphy was the maiden name of his mother, who died from cancer in 2005. And the "social club" part of the name is simply what a barber shop is for men, Thorp says.

"Everybody has a story," he said. "They open up and they talk to you, and that's what I love about it."

Thorp, 58, also will dispense life advice, whether it's on relationships, work or investments.

Thorp, a West Hartford native, started cutting hair in 1979, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was mostly stationed in Texas and was in the Army until 1986. He then worked in restaurants in Manhattan and Los Angeles before returning to Connecticut. Thorp got a job at the former 41 Degrees North restaurant and "just fell in love with Mystic."

But he wanted to get out of the restaurant industry and started working at Modern Barber and Shave in Pawcatuck. It was there that he met DiCarlo, head butler at Foxwoods.

DiCarlo was pleased when he realized he didn't have to wait for the next available barber but could request Thorp, and when Thorp moved, DiCarlo followed him to 29 Broadway Ave.

"You can tell it's an art to him," DiCarlo said. "He takes his time. He'll make sure you like it. He'll tell you his opinion."

Thorp is the only employee at his shop, and his goal eventually is to bring in another barber or two.

During the few weeks he was closed, Thorp offered to go to Foxwoods and cut hair for DiCarlo and his co-workers. It didn't end up happening, but the offer spoke volumes to DiCarlo.

Some of Thorp's friends from England and Belgium sent him euros after the fire. Thorp travels to Suffolk for The Trip Out and Belgium for the Flanders Chopper Bash every year and cuts hair there.

He has been interested in motorcycles since he was a kid in the 1970s, and Steve McQueen was one of his heroes. Thorp now has a 1980 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead.

He had a lot of motorcycle-related décor in his old shop, along with ocean scenes, 1950s and '60s horror movie artwork and swag lamps.

Thorp is not sure what tomorrow brings, and if his new location is temporary or not, but he hopes to be in Mystic for another 20 years.

e.moser@theday.com

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