People often confide in their barbers, but Giuseppe Lazzara, owner of Papa Joe's Video Cuts Barber Shop in Chandler, has resolved to be more than just a receptive ear.
After the latest in a series of customers recently complained about losing his job and having to forgo future haircuts to save money, Lazzara offered the man a free haircut to help with his job search.
"I said, 'Worse comes to worst, you can come here and they will be on me,'" Lazzara said.
The conversation prompted Lazzara to expand the offer of free haircuts to others who have lost their jobs, at least until the economy turns around, he said.
"It ain't gonna hurt me just to give a haircut," he said.
Lazzara's shop is the last surviving business in his wing of the East Valley Mall, northwest of Arizona Avenue and Warner Road. While his customer volume has fallen off about 5 percent to 10 percent, Lazzara said he's still doing OK.
This year, he's celebrating his 50th year in the United States after immigrating from the village of Santa Caterina Villarmosa in Sicily, where his 90-year-old mother still lives. He's spent the last 24 years cutting hair in Chandler.
"I take care of the customer, do the best I can, and I think I have a good reputation," he said.
Lazzara has a knack for attracting attention to his business. In the 1980s, he was profiled in USA Today for his idea to sell videotapes of children's first haircuts.
"I'm trying to be innovative. I'm always trying to think of things," he said.
Although the barber shop's name still includes the phrase "video cuts," the market for the service is no longer there, he said.
"Everybody has their own cameras now. Back then it was ok," Lazzara said.
He's also been featured in the press for hosting a jazz band of refugees from Hurricane Katrina to raise donations for those displaced by the disaster that devastated New Orleans and portions of the Gulf Coast in 2005, and for offering free haircuts to military personnel.
"I'm always doing something to help the public," he said.
About two or three people so far have taken up his latest offer related to the economy. Lazzara said he's not too concerned about being swamped by people looking for free haircuts.
"I don't want somebody to show up with a Hummer or Cadillac and want a free haircut. That would spoil what I'm trying to do," he said. "I don't mind if it's legit, but if people are trying to take advantage of us, it would ruin it for people who really need it."
A couple of customers under Lazzara's shears Tuesday expressed support for the offer.
"I think it's a wonderful gesture," said David Knight, a retired Sun Lakes resident.
Brandon Call, who expects to graduate soon from Arizona State University, praised Lazzara's generosity.
"I can certainly appreciate the trouble people are having finding jobs," he said.