Unsung Hero #76

Compo Center Barber Shop is a throwback.

It’s not a salon. Not a “coiffeur.”

It’s exactly what its name says: a barber shop.

And it’s been that way for nearly 60 years.

Tommy Ghianuly

Tommy Ghianuly was one of the first tenants when Compo Shopping Center opened up. Just out of the service, the Bridgeport native was in the right place at the right time.

Westport was booming. Artists, lawyers, commuters — all needed haircuts.

So did their kids.

Tommy was good. He loved to talk, and his customers loved their conversations.

Compo Barbers prospered. Through every trend — crew cuts, long hair, feathered hair, fades, back to short hair — Tommy adapted.

Times changed. He added female barbers. He had to get rid of his shoeshine guys.

The kids of Tommy’s first customers grew up. They married, moved back, and brought their own kids. Now he’s cutting the hair of their kids.

He saw so many stores in the shopping center come and go. McLellan’s. Lenette’s. Westport Record & Tape. Zaro’s. The Ice Cream Parlor.

Yet Compo Barbers — and Gold’s — are still there. And still growing strong.

Compo Center Barber Shop is one of the last vestiges of old Westport. You hear it in the casual conversations that take place in the waiting area. You see it in the warm, loving way Tommy greets all his customers — the ones who have come for 50 years, and the ones who just moved here last week.

You see the old Westport on the walls, too. For decades, Tommy has collected vintage photos. They show it all: the original Main Street. Horse-drawn trolleys. A long-ago blizzard that shut down the trains.

It’s a collection the Westport Historical Society would be proud to own.

Tommy Ghinauly and his rotary phone. On the wall behind him are some of his many historical photos — and those of several generations of customers, posing together.

Above the photos sits a speaker. The music  — curated by longtime customer Dennis Jackson — is classic. There’s Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett. The other day, Frank Sinatra sang “My Way.”

Since 1959, Tommy Ghianuly has been doing it his way. That makes him our Unsung Hero of the Week.

If not the Month, Year or even Decade.

(Hat tip: Chip Stephens)

16 responses to “Unsung Hero #76

  1. Great choice Dan.

    Not only is Tommy an unsung hero, he’s a gem of a business owner who always looks out for not only his customers, but everyone! Love this guy!

  2. Effie Andriotis

    Love this Dan…

  3. Tommy has been my barber for 45 years. He’s a great guy, and a real Westport hero.

  4. Known to many of us old-timers as “Tommy Haircuts” he has been cutting my then red now grey locks for 45 years. He cut my son Tommy’s hair thru college and now when my boy comes home from his home in Boston his favorite stop is to see his favorite barber Tommy. A wonderful man, a great conversationalist, a Westport gem. By the way the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, gave Tommy the nickname referenced above. Tommy will be glad to tell you that story. A true unsung hero of Westport.

  5. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    So glad he’s still in business, got plenty of haircuts there back in the 60’s and 70’s. All the best for continued success.

  6. Stay well and active Tommy. Old Westport was the best.

  7. Great choice as a recipient of the unsung hero recognition, truly Westport at its finest – but I have to ask: what does Chip Stephens know about haircuts? : )

  8. Chip Stephens SHS '73

    Thank you Dan for writing this, Tommy has taken care of 5 generations of Stephens family members. I had stopped in to the shop before Thanksgiving to give Tommy my best but I was told by staff he had surgery recently and had not recovered enough to work.
    My hopes and prayers for Tommy that he return soon and maintain his great presence as a Woog and Westport Hero. God bless as he so often says.

  9. Audrey Doniger

    The Doniger family loves Tommy..he’s cut the boys and their dads hair for years…I made sure to bring my first grandchild to Tommy for his first haircut…I never walk past the shop without giving a hug to Tommy….one thing puzzles me…how come all his old customers grew older and he didn’t!..still the same…great choice.

  10. Arthur C Schoeller

    Best wishes for Tommy’s recovery from his surgery. Time spent in his chair is a special experience that one should not take for granted!

  11. David Goldstein

    Tommy had been cutting my hair for over 20 years. He gave my son his first haircut – the photo of Tommy with my wife and my son on his first birthday getting his first haircut is in the photo above. I have missed Tommy dearly over these past few months and can’t wait for him to return.

  12. Tommy is no unsung hero in my book. I’ver sung his praises since I first stepped into his shop.

  13. Wendy Crowther

    I’m reading this post a few days late. I’ve never been to Tommy’s but have always wanted to stop by his shop to interview him about Westport’s Baron Walter Von Langendorff and the Baron’s Golden Shadows estate.

    During my historical research on the Baron, I came upon a reference claiming that Tommy would cut the Baron’s hair and was often invited to the Baron’s mansion – Golden Shadows was located just a block away from the barber shop. Apparently both Tommy and the Baron were interested in Bonsai.

    Tommy, once you’ve recovered from your surgery, I’d love to interview you about the Baron – i.e. what were your impressions of him, his mansion, his property, his pets, etc.

    If you’d be willing to talk to me, you can contact Dan Woog who can give you my contact info, or vice versa. (Thanks, Dan).

  14. Captain Jeff Northrop

    Tommy started cutting my hair at age nine (1960), then cut my boys hair, and even my daughters once. After everything in my town has now gone I find great comfort going to Tommy’s, the pictures of my great grandfathers newspaper, one of my great great uncles packet schooners tied up in town.
    Both Tommy’s and Felices sense of humor. When I asked last year who would cut my hair when they were gone, Felice winked at Tommy and said “don’t worry, by then you won’t have any hair”.
    Love you guys!

  15. Andrew Nevas

    Sad to report that Tommy passed away this morning.