Razor’s Edge turns 50
Joe DeGennaro Sr. didn’t plan on becoming a barber.
“It wasn’t one of my aspirations. I wanted to be an auto mechanic. I found I had the talent for doing hair. It came so naturally, and I enjoyed doing it,” DeGennaro said.
The business that he founded in 1968 — Razor’s Edge — is marking 50 years in business.
“I think it’s awesome. Lots of people think they can open up a business like this, but within three years, it’s closed. To reach 50 years in this business is unheard of,” DeGennaro said.
It all started when Bruno Pierannunzio, owner of a barber shop along Seventh Avenue and Fourth Street, was looking for an apprentice. He asked Gus DeGennaro, whose family lived nearby. Gus asked his brother Jim, who then turned to younger brother Joe, who was just 15 at the time.
”Jim said, ‘Joe, why don’t you try it?”’ recalled DeGennaro, who is certified as a master barber. ”I tried it, and it was like a duck to water.”
DeGennaro earned his barber’s license in 1961, the year that he graduated from Altoona High School. He then purchased Pierannunzio’s shop in 1968, and Razor’s Edge was born.
He moved his business to Greenwood in 1970. Before long, he outgrew that facility and, in 1975, he moved to the business’s present location at 1531 E. Pleasant Valley Blvd. He later opened shops in Hollidaysburg and at the Graystone Villas but closed one and sold the other to consolidate operations in Greenwood.
“It simplified things to consolidate into one location,” DeGennaro said.
Razor’s Edge is a full-service salon that offers cutting, coloring, wigs, hair extensions, non-surgical hair grafting, manicures, pedicures and more.
The business experienced significant growth in the 1970s.
“Back in the 1970s, we grew 20 percent a year for 10 years. That was unheard of. Women left the beauty shops. They wanted the blow dry look, so they flocked to the barbers. We were precise cutters. The decade of the ’70s was phenomenal,” DeGennaro said.
Razor’s Edge attracts customers from throughout the region — and has a loyal customer from Corning, N.Y.
“I’ve been going to Joe since 1986. I was born and raised in Altoona. I got married in 1964, and we moved to Corning,” Judy Whitbred said.
Whitbred had her hair cut in Corning but wasn’t satisfied.
“When I went to Joe, my hair fell right into place. I said to my husband, ‘Maybe we should make the trip every six weeks?’ I have relatives in Altoona, so we can also visit,” Whitbred said. “I’ve been very happy with the Razor’s Edge.”
Razor’s Edge has a lot of loyal, long-time customers.
“I’ve been going there for 43 years. I love it there. Joe takes very good care of me — he pays attention and cuts my hair perfectly every time. My bangs are very important to me, and he has done it right every time for 43 years,” Pam Spallone of Altoona said.
“I’ve been going to Joe for 32 years. They’re very professional, they’re friendly and they do a wonderful job. They know my hair and how I like it. It’s an easy in-and-out for me. They always pull through and make me feel good about my hair,” Patty Caber of Altoona said.
Patty Stange of Altoona has been a Razor’s Edge customer for 30 years.
“Joe is the best. He’s always been good to me. He’s extremely talented — he’s a master at what he does. His precision cuts end expert coloring have made him one of the best in the area. He’s a natural. He has a passion for the industry that keeps him at the top,” Stange said.
Well-educated employees are the key to success.
“You have to have good employees with high standards like I have. You need to have continuous education. Hiring the right people, getting educated and having excellent customer service are the keys,” DeGennaro said. “Your staff will make or break you. We have the best hair cutters in town and offer other services you won’t get at other locations.”
Razor’s Edge is active in the community and has raised thousands of dollars for Easter Seals with its fashion shows, Cutting Carnival and back-to-school Cut-a-Thons.
In 2008, The Blair County Chamber of Commerce honored DeGennaro as the Small Businessman of the Year, and in 2011, Razor’s Edge was awarded Excellence in Small Business during the annual Chamber Hall of Fame Awards event.
“Razor’s Edge has been an active and well-respected member of the chamber for many years. They have hosted events on our behalf, and they have routinely been honored by our organization for professionalism and community engagement. In an industry that places a high emphasis on customer service, few businesses can maintain a solid reputation for 50 years. Razor’s Edge is one that has,” chamber President/CEO Joe Hurd said.
DeGennaro, 75, retired in 2011 but still works one day a week. His son, Michael, is CEO, and Joe Jr. is also an employee.
“I’ve been doing this for 60 years. I love my work; I enjoy making people beautiful. You miss the customers. It’s bittersweet: It’s nice to be retired, but you miss the people you grew up with,” DeGennaro said. “The business is in good hands. Hopefully we have another 50 years.”