Tom Ghianuly’s 50 Years

Last Saturday, I got what’s left of my hair cut.

Not exactly blog-worthy — except for this:

When Tom Ghianuly — who has been my barber at his Compo shop since I was a teenager, and who cut my father’s hair for even longer — asked what was new, I couldn’t tell him.

I couldn’t mention that the next day, over 100 of his many customers, friends and admirers had planned a surprise dinner in honor of his 50 years in business.

It’s not easy to keep a secret from a barber — especially one as well-connected and curious as Tom — but these guys did.

Tom Ghianuly listens as his friends and fans honor him.

The event was the brainchild of attorney Dick Berkowitz.  He had help from a group that included Jim Schadt, Alan Nevas, Ron Gordon, Les Giegerich and Steve Siegelaub.

It’s a microcosm of Tom’s clients and fans:  a former CEO of Reader’s Digest,a retired US District Court judge, a guy who built half of Westport — all there to honor their longtime, beloved barber.

Giegerich — 96 years old — was almost 50 when Tom started cutting his hair.  Seigelaub was 5.

That half-century span spoke volumes about Tom.

So did the presence of the Brooks family — Tom’s longtime landlord at Compo Shopping Center.  How often do landlords fete their tenants?

A few people spoke.  They presented Tom and his wife Carolyn with a weekend at the Ocean House at Watch Hill.

In typical Tom fashion, he never expected anything like this — even after half a century of work, even after seeing the Birchwood Country Club parking lot filled as he and the Berkowitzes drove up.  (Dick had told Tom he’d take him and Carolyn out to dinner.)

“Boy, this place is packed!” Tom said.

He had no idea it was packed for him.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff praises Tom Ghianuly.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff was one of the many Westporters already inside.  When the ceremony began, he read a proclamation.  Then he gave a framed copy to Tom, to hang in his shop.

I’m guessing that on Tuesday — when Compo Center Barber Shop reopened — Tom was embarrassed to put the proclamation up.  He’s much more comfortable with the many photos of historic Westport he’s collected, and which line the walls.

But after 5 decades, Tom Ghianuly is a very important part of town history too.

11 responses to “Tom Ghianuly’s 50 Years

  1. Dan,

    Thanks for the wonderful account of the special evening for Tommy!!
    He started cutting my hair in 1961, he and his fellow barbers were my barbers for every year until I moved from Westport in 2007. He cut my hair the day before my wedding, he cut my brothers hair and my Dad’s hair. He was part of our family, as he was to so many Westport families.
    Tommy thanks for all of the wonderful memories, thanks for being an incredible icon for the Town of Westport.
    Thank you for your smile, your hand shakes, your caring nature.
    Thanks for making your barber shop a place we could call home.
    God Bless!!

    Tom Wall

  2. I remember helping my father photograph Tom’s weeding. When I got married and had a child they all had to meet Tommy.

  3. What a great guy! Tom is Mr. Westport! He is also the nicest guy you will ever meet.

  4. I grew up a Riverside Barber kid, but Tom has been my adult barber for many years. Great guy.

  5. Tom is a Westport icon and deserves every bit of the attention and congratulations that he received. Aside from being a great man and great barber, he has done what few in Westport have been able to accomplish — successfully running a business here for 50 years!

    Congratulations Tom!

  6. I am sorry I missed this important event. Reading about it, flooded my mind with memories about the Compo Barber Shop and Tommy. Talk about long-time associations! In June 1966, just before this widower married Ann (“Andy”) Walton Pettee, the Pettee’s filled every chair in the shop for simultaneous haircuts: Me and my 4 sons: Michael, Tim, Brian and David. Unfortunately, the photographer was busy snapping candids of the girls getting ready and we missed a memorable opportunity to add to Tom’s picture gallery.

  7. I am proud to say Tommy is my barber too. He’s one of the folks that makes Westport so special. Unfortunately for the current residents, there are very few long time businesses in Westport who have been operating around 50 years. Off-hand I can think of 3: Tommy and Compo Barber Shop, Steve and Susan Silver and Silvers of Westport and Bill Mitchell and Mitchells. What are the other home grown businesses that have been in operation in Westport for 50 years or more?

  8. And Silver’s, since 1951, 60 years. And Mitchell’s,since 19
    58, 53 years.

  9. Awesome! I wish I was there. Congrats to my man “Tommy the Barber,” as he’s called in our house. So many wonderful memories – 15 minutes at a time.

  10. What a nice story. While I have been an infrequent customer….only because of reasons of convenience…..I have really admired Tom since we moved to Westport 38 years ago. He brings such a positive attitude to his shop every day which brings smiles to everyone he meets. He is definitely a Westport treasure and I am so pleased that so many people recognized his great contribution for the last 50 years. Congratulations, Tom