After 64 years, Wilton barber, Elmer Santerre, to retire

WILTON – When Elmer Santerre opened his barber shop in 1959, he was one of three barbers on Main Street, and haircuts cost 75 cents. When he announced his retirement last week, he was the only one left and haircuts cost a lot more.

On Friday morning, Dec. 30, about 25 people gathered in front of Elmer’s barbershop to say good-by, thanks for all he’s done over the past 64 years, and wish him well in the future. The police cruiser and a fire truck passed by with sirens and flashing lights, adding to the applause. Those wishing him well included town officials, neighboring merchants, and long-time residents, some of whom had patronized the shop.

His was the longest continuously operating business on Main Street.

Kermit Williams, chairman of the Select Board, presented Elmer with official citations from Gov. Chris Sununu and Speaker of the House Sherman Packard. The citations listed his service in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, his continued involvement with veterans’ organizations, Main Street Association, and just being a good neighbor.

“He always takes part in Memorial Day parades,” Williams said, and about anything else going on along Main Street. When the Economic Development Committee cleaned up Memorial Park a couple of years ago, Elmer was there cutting brush.

Always the low-key sort, Elmer thanked them all for coming. “And no,” he said, “I’m not going to Florida. I’m staying right here.”

In September of 2018, on the occasion of his 60th year, town officials declared an “Elmer Day” and surprised him with a big party in the town hall.

Elmer bought his barbershop from Angelo Grasso in in 1958. After a tour with the U.S. Navy, he attended barber school and moved to Wilton with his young family.

“And the rest,” he said in an interview in 2009, his 50th anniversary, “is history.”

But some of that history is still in his shop, including a cash register which dates to 1908 and an ornate mirror which belonged to Grasso.

Although his sign reads “Shave and haircuts,” he has not given shaves in many years he said in earlier interview. “With the new razors it’s easy to do at home.” But most of his barbering tools are the same.

The current shop dates to 1970 when he remodeled the original building.

He was a long-time fixture, a part of the fabric of Main Street, a connection with its past, and he will be missed.

The shop is for sale with hopes another barber will come along. The revolving striped pole is there, waiting.