WEIRTON - The way John Fazi sees it, if you don't love what you're doing there's no point doing it - which may say a lot about why, in just a few weeks, he'll be passing the 50-year mark as a hair stylist.
"Fifty years, that's a long time," said Fazi, a Follansbee resident and co-owner of the johnmichael salon on Three Springs Drive. "You know what? When I decided to move the salon up here, my wife said to me, 'You're like that Beatles song, "When I'm '64'" You're 64 and you're doing this new adventure ' I never thought about it until she brought it up."
Fazi actually started in the business in 1962, after graduating from Wheeling Barber College. He worked for "someone else" for eight years before they had a parting of ways.
GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY — John Fazi styles the hair of one of his longtime customers. Come September, Fazi, co-owner of the johnmichael salon in Weirton, will have been in the hair business for 50 years. - Linda Harris
"We had a difference of philosophy and I quit," he says with a laugh. "I named my first salon, 'Mi Place,' what's that tell you? That was in 1970."
Back then Fazi said he was one of only two male stylists in the Tri-State Area - not that that stopped him from making his mark in his chosen profession.
He'd trained in Roffler, a technique for styling mens' hair, in 1968. "I took a two-day class that cost me $350," he said, pointing out that was a pretty hefty price tag at a time when haircuts "were only $1.75."
In 1974 he entered an international hair competition in New York City - and won.
"I competed against 80 hairdressers from around the world," he said. "I entered it, I put my name in the contest - I knew I was good."
After that, he became a platform artist for men's and women's hairstyles and did shows. "That's when you know you hit the big time -your peers come see you and learn from you," he said. "It's like you've hit the pinnacle of your career."
In 1992, he took on a business partner and changed the name of the shop from "Mi Place" to "Hair by Fazi." Six years ago they decided to move from the original downtown Weirton location to the Three Springs Drive storefront, renaming the salon "johnmichael."
"My wife told me, 'You should be thinking about retiring, but you're not, you're not retiring. You're thinking about going back in debt and starting over again," he said.
But Fazi insists it's been a good fit for him, allowing him to make a good living, put three children through college and make a lot of friends in the five decades he's been in the hair business.
"I have clients who've been with me 40 years, some since I started 50 years ago," he said, though he concedes the profession isn't or everyone.
"It's a job (to have) between being single and getting married or finding another job. But the ones who make it, the ones who do well in it, they love it and they love coming to work."