What happened to Roma Barbershop?

A 'for rent' sign hangs in the window of Roma's on Queen Street East. PHOTO: Lara O'Keefe

Search Roma Barbershop in Google and you’ll find plenty of rave reviews.

“This place is absolutely terrific,” writes one.

“Best barber in the Beach,” writes another.

The East End barbershop, conveniently located at 1973 Queen Street East, operated for more than 40 years. Many adult patrons say they first visited the shop when they were infants, with some even traveling across the province after they moved away just to get a haircut from their beloved Beach barber.

“When I went to school in Ottawa I would wait until I was home for a weekend to get my hair cut by Roma’s magical hand,” wrote Graeham Magee.

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Known to many simply as ‘Roma’, barber Claudio Gesummaria built up a devoted clientele over the years. Photo: Courtesy Sheldon Sturges

Roma was a one-man show, operated by the charming and talented Claudio Gesummaria, a man who took great pride in his work, keeping the popular barbershop open six days a week and often 12 hours a day.

So it came as a shock when, just a few months ago, Beach residents and loyal customers discovered Roma barbershop was closed for good.

“I hope he is all right,” 30-year patron Sheldon Sturges said in a Facebook post. “He is a splendid chap and a great barber.”

Reports say that Gesummaria suffered a stroke this past summer and although he is expected to recover, the same cannot be said of his barbershop, which has been emptied of personal effects and now has a “for rent” sign on the window. His signage and fixtures remain. Beach Metro News attempted to contact Gesummaria, or a member of his family, for this story, with no luck.

Andrew Balodis, a devoted client of Roma, had been visiting the shop since 1983.

“It wasn’t that the place was really exciting or anything,” he said. “The experience itself was…if you’ve ever gone to an old-fashioned barbershop. It was exactly that. You go in, you have a seat. And he always knew you. He’d always know something about you. Something that was unique to your story. He was a genuine person. Small in stature but just an absolutely huge heart.”

Known to many as the best barber in the Beach, Gesummaria’s passion for his craft was palpable. His work was quick and efficient, yet always left customers delighted with the final result. This is a man who knows his way around a straight-edged razor.

Despite being a one-man shop, Gesummaria never rushed. Instead, he treated every customer with his full care and attention. His five-minute shoulder massage became as renowned as his fine workmanship on the scalp.

In the words of his client, Magee: “As the old adage goes one can expect two things in life, ‘death and taxes,’ yet if you get barbered at Roma’s there are four. A fantastic straight razor shave and a five-minute shoulder massage.”

Clearly, Roma was not just a barbershop. It was an experience. An authentic take on a classic and treasured tradition, one the community wants Gesummaria to know will be sorely missed.

 

 


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1 comments

I’ve been going there for several years now. Once I accidentally handed over a 100+ year old coin that I keep as a good-luck charm; it must have stuck to a loonie in my wallet. I didn’t realize where I’d lost it and thought it was gone forever. On my next haircut, Claudio disappeared into the back of the shop and returned with my coin, asking: “Did you leave this here?” I shall never forget his great haircuts, and that even greater kindness.

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