, 2022-11-13 04:06:03,
The story of Tony’s Barber Shop is more than just a tale of a Leaside fixture maintaining its Bayview Avenue presence for 58 years, where the stylists cut the hair of thousands of men, including a former prime minister and a handful of Toronto Maple Leafs players. It’s also the story of two immigrants coming to Canada for a better life and finding joy in steel scissors, straight razors and friendly banter.
“Once I got working here at the shop, I knew I’d be here for a long time,” says Amri Khatib, who’s owned Tony’s since 2004, and before that was an employee since 1993. Emigrating from the Middle East in 1991, he apprenticed under original owner Tony Grella, to becoming adept at using scissors over electric clippers. He credits Grella for teaching him everything he knows about cutting hair.
(Read about another barbershop, this one bringing downtown haircutting to Upper Beach.)
“He taught me how to get better with scissor work because in the Middle East, all the barbers used clippers,” Khatib, 52, recalls, adding that men living in such a hot climate preferred very short hair cuts. “He was always supportive and is truly the kindest man I’ve ever met.”
Among the lessons was developing a keen eye. “You need an attention for detail in this business, you have to be precise,” Khatib says. But Grella also taught him the importance of camaraderie away from the barber chair. “Our families always got together, went to Tony’s place, where we saw his impressive garden and enjoyed his wife’s cooking.”
Inside Tony’s, the atmosphere is quaint and warm. Some walls still have the original brick, while elsewhere paintings of early 20th-century barbershops hang next to and black-and-white photos of Toronto landmarks such as Ontario Place. Model ships — gifts from a former Bayview shop owner who knew Khatib enjoyed sailing occupy an upper shelf high above the mirrors.
It’s hard not to notice the impressive framed correspondence on the wall: a thank-you letter from former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who used to get haircuts from Tony when he was growing up nearby.
What also stands out is an original Smith-Corona cash register from the early 1960s. It’s a reminder of Tony’s origin story, and yes, it works as well as it did decades ago, Khatib says. “But only for cash transactions, of course.”
Grella moved into the Bayview space in 1964, six years after working at Pasquale’s Barber Shop near McCaul and Baldwin. When the owner…
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