Before there was Twitter and Google there was Word of Mouth

Screen-Shot-2014-10-24-at-3

How an old-fashioned Barber Shop flourished in Downtown Wilmington DE

Lou Mauro was born in Wilmington, DE in 1939. When I asked him why he decided to be a barber, he said, “I didn’t have a choice.” He started working in his uncle’s barbershop on Union Street when he as just 8 years old. As a young boy he would do twelve hour days in the summer. At nineteen years old he made a whopping $19.00 a week as a barber.

For Lou, as you will learn later, it wasn’t about the money. It was about the love for his customers.

Lou ran seven barbershops in his career, the last one located at 913 King Street called The Men’s Club. A series of health issues has caused him to retire in Chicago with his son, Dean. Due to the nature of his health, he was whisked off to Chicago quickly and was unable to give the proper goodbye he wanted to give to his customers. I agreed to give him a call and share his story, what I got in return was more than I could have wished for. A good reflection on, “If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life.”

With all of his history in Wilmington, Lou, nicknamed “The mayor of Wilmington” has seen a lot and has some great stories to share. When an arsonist set fire to the Delaware Trust Building in 1997, every single business in the building was evacuated and over 150 workers were asked to vacate. The city’s fire inspector met with the firemen in Lou’s barber shop. The team decided that the inspector would need to go upstairs to investigate and wear a large respirator mask to protect himself against the asbestos fibers dislodged during the fire. There was one problem, the inspector’s large beard was preventing him from wearing the mask properly. They all turned and looked at Lou, as he needed a shave and he was just the man to do it. “Well,” Lou asked, “Am I open or am I closed?” “I guess you are open,” the inspector replied. Lou requested a certificate of occupancy immediately. When other business owners that leased in the building were dumbfounded on why he was the only business in the building allowed to be open he simply responded, “It’s barber law.” Even during the dismantling of the center of the Delaware Trust Building, Lou’s shop remained open.

Another time, Lou discovered a raccoon inside his shop. He promptly removed it. During the middle of the night, he received a phone call. The entire Delaware Trust’s building’s alarm was going off. Lou arrived to his shop to find the door locked, but the place was in disarray. “My stuff was everywhere,” he explained. “It looked as if the place had been robbed. I was confused though as the door was locked, so it had to of been someone with a key. I assumed it was a previous employee, but why would the fire alarm of been pulled?” The police arrived to take fingerprints and after they left Lou discovered the “thief.” “There was the raccoon in the back of my shop!”

Lou had 540 clients ranging from Joe Biden’s sons to the neighbor down the street. Lou was Ned Carpenter’s barber for 40 years. When talking about his customer’s Lou becomes emotional. “Jodie has two little boys, and I did their hair regularly. I looked forward to watching them grow. That is what I enjoyed the most, surrounding myself with my customers lives.” When I had to leave because of my health issues, Jodie tried taking her sons to someone else, they cried and were very upset. They yelled, I want Mr. Lou to cut my hair! That to me is very special.”

William Lickle, a member of President Regan’s Export Council and the former CEO of the Delaware Trust Building was also one of Lou’s clients. Lou recalls learning a lot from him and growing with him as his life changed and evolved. “They weren’t my customers,” Lou explained. “They were my friends.” He paused, 
“They loved me and I loved them.”

When MBNA headquarters was in Wilmington, they offered Lou six figures to run their barber shop for their employees. Although the money would be nice Lou declined the offer. “For security reasons, my customers would not be allowed to enter the MBNA building,” Lou explained, “My customers followed me for years, I refused to leave them.”

When I first started working at the Buccini/Pollin Group, Lou’s most recent landlord, I heard about his barber shop and was very intrigued. As a marketing manager it was very interesting to me that this downtown business had no website, no social media profiles and practically no online presence. But now, after speaking with Lou it is obvious he had something much more powerful that caused him to be successful, a love for his customers and a passion to be more than a barber to them, but a true friend.

If you were one of Lou’s customers he would love to hear from you, he can be reached at [email protected].