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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Chair of beloved Mystic barber restored

    Rich Gauthier has his hair cut by barber Stephanie Silva, owner of Beachcomber Barbershop in Old Mystic, while siting in the restored barber chair Friday, May 17, 2024, that he helped restore. The barber chair was owned by barber Roger Panciera who owned Razor’s Edge Barber Shop in Mystic and died in 2017. The barber station, right, was also part of Roger Panciera Razor’s Edge Barber Shop. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Erin Panciera’s son, AJ Vegliante, got first haircut in March 2017. He has pictured here his father Rick Vegliante (left) and his grandfather, Barber Roger Panciera (right) (Photo courtesy of Erin Panciera).
    Roger Panciera cuts the hair of his grandson, Matteo Panciera, circa 2010 (Photo courtesy of Erin Panciera).
    In this undated photo, Andrew Gauthier gets his hair cut by Barber Roger Panciera in Mystic (Photo Courtesy of Rich Gauthier).
    Andrew Gauthier, 13, discuses with barber Stephanie Silva, owner of Beachcomber Barbershop in Old Mystic, how to have his hair cut while siting in the restored barber chair Friday, May 17, 2024, that his father, Rich, helped restore. The barber chair was owned by barber Roger Panciera, who owned Razor’s Edge Barber Shop in Mystic and died in 2017. The barber station, right, was also part of Roger Panciera Razor’s Edge Barber Shop. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mystic ― In her Old Mystic barber shop decorated with a cross stitch of the Mystic Drawbridge and a map of Mystic, among other memorabilia, Stephanie Silva cuts the hair of people seated in a recently restored orange vinyl chair built in the 1960s.

    She is carrying on a Mystic tradition, as many fondly remember the barber chair from Roger Panciera’s barber shop.

    Silva, owner of Beachcomber Barbershop in Old Mystic, restored a barber chair and work station of Panciera, nicknamed the “Mayor of Mystic,” who died in 2017 and ran a barber shop in downtown Mystic for nearly 50 years that served as a gathering space.

    “I thought it would be really nice to bring it back to Mystic,” Silva said. “So many people have memories of him and his barber shop.”

    The barber shop was a place where people learned of big, national news over the radio or television and where they shared the events in their lives ― having their first child, getting married or experiencing a death in their family ― and where people marked the milestone of their child’s first haircut, said Panciera’s daughter, Erin Panciera.

    At the center of the barber shop, was the barber chair.

    Panciera knew everything that was going on in the community, and people trusted in him, said Erin Panciera. People stopped by Razor’s Edge Barber Shop not just to get their hair cut, but to sit and talk with him and pass the time.

    Over the decades, generations of people went through the doors of the barber shop. Erin Panciera said barbering was not just a career but a way of life for her father, whose mother and grandmother were hairdressers in Mystic.

    Silva, who opened her shop in 2020 in the Old Mystic Mill, said she came up with the idea after hearing from many people in the community that they had been getting their hair cut by Panciera, some since their first haircut. They told touching stories about his involvement in the community, from St. Patrick Church in Mystic to the Knights of Columbus.

    She wanted to restore the chair for everyone to reminisce and remember him.

    While she didn’t know Panciera personally, she was excited to have the opportunity to restore the chair for people who knew him and continue the barber’s tradition ― and a beloved part of the Mystic community.

    “Mystic has changed a lot, especially in the last couple of years,” she added. “You don’t get a lot of opportunities to bring something back, and it was important to me to do that.”

    Mystic resident Rich Gauthier, a Beachcomber Barber Shop customer, said his in-laws, Pat and Dave Varholy, were close to Panciera. Both of Gauthier’s kids, Andrew, 13, and Meghan, 11, and his wife, Karen, got their first haircuts at Razor’s Edge.

    So when Gauthier saw the chair and station at Beachcomber Barber Shop was going to be restored, he offered to help. He and his father-in-law, with Andrew taking photos to document the task, took the chair apart and then fixed the hydraulic cylinder so the chair again moves up and down and swivels.

    Silva said the chair and station “needed a lot of TLC to be done right.” As she worked on the project, her husband, Ken Silva, helped her, and K&J Upholstery in Groton assisted her in picking out a matching shade and re-upholstered the chair. A client, Walter Houghtaling, helped her put together the station and her friend, Chris Simpson, helped her mount the station to the wall.

    “He was always very, very easygoing, very happy to see you, to set you up with the chair and make it the best time he could for you,” Houghtaling said. “I always left with a smile.”

    Silva said that since Panciera’s barber shop was such a big part of the community, the involvement of people from the community in the restoration of the barber chair and station made it even more special.

    In the end, seeing everyone’s reactions when they came to the barber shop and exclaimed, “That’s Roger’s chair” affirmed why she did the project.

    “It’s about the people in the community, and I love this community,” Silva said.

    As Gauthier got his hair cut in the chair at Beachcomber Barbershop recently, while his son, Andrew was about to get his hair cut next, he said, “It’s like Saturday morning.”

    Gauthier remembers listening to stories on Saturday mornings in Panciera’s barber shop, where Panciera, a New York Yankees fan, also had two chairs from the old Yankee Stadium as well as baseball hats and pennants from various teams.

    Razor’s Edge Barber Shop, was for decades on Cottrell Street, and later called Roger’s Razor’s Edge when it moved to a side room at the train station and then Washington Street in Mystic, said Erin Panciera.

    “Roger was kind,” Gauthier said. “He knew everybody in town. He kind of knew the pulse of what was going on in town at all times so if you needed to know what was going on you just went to Roger because he knew.”

    Erin Panciera said her father was easy to talk to and had a smile for everyone.

    “Wherever he went, he would know someone,” she said.

    Erin Panciera said the family has kept two of the barber chairs, and it’s meaningful that another one remains in the Mystic community. She thinks her father would have liked that a chair remains in the barbering world.

    “It’s great to see it refurbished, and it’s great to see it still living on and particularly in the community,” she said.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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