Photo by Neil Strebig
Dave Kushner aka Dave the Barber (right) cuts the hair of longtime client Art Albright, 82, of Bellevue. Albright has been getting his hair cut by Kushner since he started on Federal Street in 1965.
By Neil Strebig
Dave Kushner never had dreams of becoming a barber, and certainly never planned on cutting men’s hair for a living, but his affinity for the local residents evolved in to a lifelong business after taking his first job behind the chair.
After 51 years of service in the Northside, Kushner will be officially closing the doors of his Dave’s Barber Shop in Historic Deutschtown at the end of this month.
“Was my first job at [326 Federal Street],” Kushner said of his humble beginnings on the Northside. “I just enjoyed it over here. It was always an exciting place to work.”
Kushner, 72, has been at his current 505 Foreland Street location since 1999, but originally started cutting hair in 1965 on Federal Street.
“Dave is emblematic of those small neighborhood serving businesses that make these places good to live in. There are good reliable services that neighborhoods depend on,” Mark Fatla, Executive Director of the Northside Leadership Conference and client of Kushner’s, said. “We sometimes take them for granted until they depart or close. And that’s suddenly when we realize how important they were to both us individually and the neighborhood as a whole.”
Kushner, a South Hills-native, originally planned on retiring at the age of 70, but two years later he’s finally decided to hang up the clippers in favor of life at home with his family. Jesting that his sons wondered “what took me so long,” Kushner admits he will miss the many clients he has grown close to over the years.
“I’m going to miss the people, sure, that’s the one thing in the back of my mind. Most of these people are like extended family, I’ve know them for so long. Some I’ve [had] over 30 years and [they’re] still coming in here,” he said.
John Chmelynski of the North Hills admitted that he’s unsure of where he’s going to go for his afternoon haircuts.
“He’s very efficient and personable,” Chmelyshki said. “I like the way he cuts my hair. Nothing fancy, just a plain haircut. Just a regular barber shop, [that’s] hard to come by.”
Kushner, whose cut, styled and shaved over thousands of Pittsburgh patrons over the years, proudly shares that “It felt good to make customers happy.”
As a lifelong Northside merchant, Kushner also used to help former customer and Northside Chronicle editor Jim Lyons deliver papers during the early years of the newspaper in the 1980s.
“One day [Lyons] just asked if I wanted to do that. He used to bring a couple hundred and I’d take about 25 to different places along Federal Street,” Kushner said. “My pay was, he’d give me a little ad in the paper. A little square.”
When asked about what they’ll do once Kushner officially retires, Falta joked, “I’ll try to talk him out of it. Your barber is a long term relationship. When something interrupts it, it kind of upsets your world a little bit.”
As for Chelyshki he figures he’ll just, “Grow long hair.”
While his absence will be missed, there’s no doubting the positive legacy Kushner has left behind on both the community and his patrons.
Dave’s Barber Shop is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 12-5 p.m. Saturday. Walk-ins only.
On behalf of the Northside Chronicle we’d like to thank Dave Kushner for his 51 years of service and wish him the best in his future retirement.