By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
Raffaele Balducci of Raffaele’s Hair Salon has been snipping hair and styling do’s on Humphrey Street for four decades.“It has been my passion and my life’s work to make people look good and feel good,” he said. “I really can’t believe that 40 years have gone by.”
But it was long before his 1977 salon opening that he first picked up the clippers and discovered his passion to become a stylist.
The well-known Swampscott hairdresser, who moved to Massachusetts from Italy just prior to his ninth birthday, was licensed to cut hair before graduating from Lynn English High School. By senior year, he was styling the hair of his classmates for the prom, which he was too busy working to attend.
Inspired by his older brother Nick, who briefly worked in the hair business, Balducci worked diligently through two summer breaks and after school during his junior year, studying at Continental Hair Academy in Lynn to earn his license.
He hasn’t stopped since.
Balducci worked at a salon in Marblehead for eight years before pursuing his dream and opening the shop that has become his livelihood. There he juggles colors, cuts and curlers before a picturesque backdrop of Fisherman’s Beach.
Debbie McQuade, who is one of five longtime employees who have each spent more than 20 years at Raffaele’s, attributed Balducci’s success to his dedication and hard work.
“He has spent 10 to 12 hours here everyday for the past 40 years,” said McQuade. “He will have four colors going and two cuts, and they’re all his. At one time, he was booking (appointments) every 15 minutes.”
Hairdresser Paula Bdiwi has been with Raffaele’s for 20 years, Joan Connolly for 30 years, and Eva Berry “came with the salon,” Balducci said.
While his brother didn’t stick with hairdressing, his two sisters, Emily and Rosa, both jumped on board, and have worked with him since the shop’s inception. Eventually, it was more than just having his sisters by his side that made the shop feel like home. Many of his customers became like family.
“We’re up to four generations of customers,” he said. “It makes me feel a little old but it’s great. I’ve seen people come in as kids, then they’re finishing high school, then they’re coming in for their wedding, then they’re having their own kids and bringing them in. It’s kind of interesting to watch people’s lives happen.”
From pin-straight blowouts, feathered waves, and the colossal-sized hair that was the ’80s, Balducci has also watched decades of trends come and go.
“Some trends come back, but when they do come back, they’re always a little different than they were before,” he said. “Trends always change.”
Many styles may have come and gone, but Balducci says he has no plans to put down the shears anytime soon.
Bridget Turcotte is a reporter for the Daily Item of Lynn. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.