News

Chris Martino, of Texas, opens The Barber’s Tool Shed in Merrimack on site formerly Leo’s

Friday, March 21, 2014

By LORETTA JACKSON

Staff Writer

errimack’s Chris Martino, newly relocated from Texas, has opened The Barber’s Tool Shed, 23 Loop Road – a short stretch of shaded road behind the Lobster Boat restaurant.

Martino’s barbering business is located in a building that formerly housed Leo’s Barber Shop, a business owned for years by Leo Fleury, of Hudson, who opened his shop there in 1972. Fleury retired about two years ago and died in 2013, according to an obituary in The Nashua Telegraph. Surprisingly, according to the obituary, Leo’s sister now resides in Dover Plains, N.Y., where Martino went to high school.

Martino credits the man for establishing a business of four decades. Now, however, the bright yellow building with the peaked roof and parking spaces in the front and rear for several cars is occupied by Martino’s business, The Barber’s Tool Shed.

The Barber’s Tool Shed is a modern enterprise that Martino likens to a clean slate. His mechanized, red-and-white barber pole, revolving on its axis, and a flashing neon sign proclaiming, “Open,” signals visitors to enter.

“This is a brand new, clean slate,” Martino said. “Everything has been remodeled. The shop has been painted and I’ve put in all new floors. I’ve got modern tool boxes and my own equipment. It’s a new shop and a new owner.”

Martino practices his craft according to the traditional methods that call for a combination of individualized care and expert barbering skills. Many customers request fades, sometimes with edge-ups. A fade is a style that is shortest near the neck and blends into longer hair at the crown of the head. Military cuts, favored by police officers, service personnel and firefighters, are also requested. Businessmen, workmen, college guys and family men who favor a more relaxed hair style to ask for a scissors cuts.

Martino knows how to cut all those styles and each cut is followed by a hot lather neck shave and hot towel. He uses a straight razor to give a shave.

“A shave at The Barber’s Tool Shed is relaxing,” Martino said. “Four hot towels, the shave, another hot towel, another shave and a cold towel to tighten up the pores and cool the skin down.”

Martino’s razor is wielded with ease and precision. He said he learned how to give a great shave from the Russian barbers he worked with at a shop in Brooklyn Heights.

More than 1,500 hours of education provided the basis from which he has nurtured his craft since the late 1990s. He went to barber school outside of Fort Hood, Texas, after serving in the military between 1991 and 1996. A trained counterintelligence agent, he was assigned to units in Panama and Fort Hood, Texas.

Martino is a self-described corporate dropout. He has an accounting degree from Southern Methodist University, an MBA in finance from the University of Dallas and is a licensed certified public accountant. His certificate hangs in the shop.

Most of his corporate career was spent as an internal auditor. He worked for various companies, including Verizon Communications and RCN Telecom. While at RCN, he was able to expand his career into the finance field before becoming the Finance Manager for the New York Market. After RCN went private, management changes caused him to be laid off. He returned to Texas and worked at Commercial Metals in the internal audit department.

Realizing that auditing wasn’t his career, he decided to pursue his entrepreneurial dream and opened a barber shop in Haslet, Texas. It thrived but Martino still missed being back East. He had hired another barber into his shop. The man expressed an interest in owning a business. After some negotiating, Martino sold the shop to that barber and moved to New Hampshire. He arrived on Dec. 1.

“I’d been thinking about moving,” Martino said.

He had been searching for a place suitable for opening a barber shop. He found the Merrimack location on Craigslist. The deal was sweet, it included an apartment – living quarters. He moved with the site unseen, relying on photos from the landlord, Google searches and Google images of the area.

“It was a leap of faith, but I am glad I took the risk and made the move,” Martino said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better location or landlord. Everything is falling into place. I’ve met a lot of great people here and I already have some great customers.”

Martino chose New Hampshire, the site of previous hiking and camping vacations. The area and its access to outdoor activities appealed to him. He also chose the state because of its favorable taxes, similar to the rates he enjoyed in Texas. He noted that Texas does not have an income tax but it does have a sales tax. New Hampshire also has favorable gun laws, also similar to Texas, he added.

Martino said he is pleased at the number of people who have come in to see the new barber in town. He said that most come back on a regular basis. He said his approach to barbering is one that combines craftsmanship and skill.

Customer Julio Molinari, a driver at Merrimack’s transfer station, checked his new haircut in a mirror and nodded his head, appreciating the barber’s work.

“I noticed someone had moved in here, so here I am,” Molinari said. “I like to support a new business.”

Martino finished Molinari’s fade.

He said it’s important to tailor the cut to the person and take time to do the job in a way that the customer will enjoy. He notes it is important to communicate with the customer and ask questions regarding the cut in question.

In his opinion, cutting hair is more than slapping a plastic guard on a clipper. Traditional barbers use other tools and techniques to achieve quality cuts.

“The craft of barbering is getting lost with the desire to get in and out in five minutes,” Martino said. “I know people are busy, but my goal is not to be a factory machine here.” He also wants to grow the shop and to add more barbers at some point down the road.

Meanwhile, the shop’s free Wi-Fi, cable TV and a small refrigerator bearing free beverages awaits the next person in search of a skilled barber, someone whose ancestors served the people of Egyptian times and whose relics have been found in tombs some 6,000 years old.

“Barbering is a craft to me,” Martino said. “A haircut is not a 10-minute thing to me. People come in and talk. We have Wi-Fi in here. If I’m here until 8 or 8:30, that’s fine. Barbering is not just about cutting hair, it is about developing a relationship with your customer that keeps them coming back. You become part of your customers’ lives. You give someone’s son a first haircut. I feel humbled when people share their lives with me. Not many jobs have that benefit.”

The Barber’s Tool Shed is on the Internet at www.thebarberstoolshed.com, Twitter at @barbers
toolshed, on Tumblr at
thebarberstoolshed.tumblr.com, on Foursquare and Facebook at facebook.com/barberstoolshed.

Specials are abundant on Foursquare. A loyalty program on Foursquare gets a sixth haircut free.

Father and son specials, buddy specials of two people and other Foursquare incentives are available. Police, fire personnel and veterans receive discounted services.

The barber shop accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard and Discover. Bitcoin – a digital currency – also is welcome.

For more information on The Barber’s Tool Shed, newly opened in Merrimack by Chris Martino, call 377-7378 or visit www.thebarberstoolshed.com.

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