September 2, 2004
Laughter, chatting and the whizz of hair trimmers fill the air at Papa Joe’s Video Cuts Barber Shop in Chandler.
Joseph Lazzara, a smiling Italian man also known as Papa Joe, owns the barber shop and greets customers at the door where they can get a haircut, facial and even an old-time hot shave.
"You have to dedicate your life to the business," said Lazzara, who has learned a lot after 50 years of cutting hair and trimming whiskers. "Smile at the customers, keep your problems at home and be friendly. That’s what keeps you in business."
Lazzara, who has been in business in Chandler for 20 years this month, began his barber career in 1954 in Santa Catherina Villa Rosa, Sicily. At age 14, it was time for Lazzara to learn a trade. His family suggested that he become a barber.
"I thought I was too old actually," he said. "Most of the kids started when they were 6 or 7 years old."
Lazzara never went to school to learn how to cut hair. Instead, he went to his family barber for on-the-job training.
"Whatever trade you wanted to learn, that’s where you went," Lazzara said. "If you wanted to be a barber, you went to a barber."
In 1958, Lazzara followed some family to the United States and became a citizen, changing his first name from Giuseppe to Joseph because he thought it sounded "more American." He headed to Chicago where his uncle ran a barber shop, and learned to use electric clippers.
In 1969, Lazzara bought his first barber shop, which had living quarters in the back for his wife, Nancy, and their two young children. In the early 1980s, Lazzara saw his business slow and needed something to bring people back into his shop.
"Many people wanted to come in and take a picture of their child’s first haircut, so I thought videotaping it would be even better," he said.
In 1984, Lazzara’s sister lured him to Arizona, and he decided to set up shop in the Smitty’s at Alma School and Warner roads in Chandler. In 1995, Lazzara moved to a shop at 2018 N. Arizona Ave., and has been there since.
Chandler resident Curtis Fink has been going to Papa Joe’s every two weeks for the past six years for haircuts.
"I came in and they did a good job, so I kept coming back," Fink said.
Lazzara said he plans to work into his 70s before his son, Joseph, who works with him, takes over the business.
"He’ll be the next to take over the throne," Lazzara said.