Irene Savatti

By Cynthia Lessard

While glancing past the authentically retro, red vinyl chairs in the cozy barbershop, I notice a bulletin board hanging in the corner. It is filled with pictures, the edges of some curled with age and faded over time. The photos capture candid moments, first haircuts, and the passing from childhood to adolescence. It is not unusual to see snapshots such as these in offices or at work desks, as many display family photos to comfort them through the working day. However, these pictures are not of stylist and co-owner Irene Savatti’s family, they are images of people who have come through her shop — her “extended family”: her friends and neighbours — her clients.

Lord Byron Hair Styling for Men, located on the corner of Danforth and Logan, acts not only as a place where you can go and get a haircut, but it is also a gathering place for family and friends. The barbershop, which caters mostly to men, has been in the same location for 27 years. Irene joined her father, the barbershop’s owner, 22 years ago, to help him manage the business. She remembers the days when Lord Byron’s didn’t even book appointments. It was a first-come, first-cut barbershop back then; a trip to Lord Byron’s was more of an excursion than a chore, as neighbours would drink coffee and talk for hours while waiting for their turn in the chair. Over the past two decades, much has changed in the area, but Lord Byron’s remains, and continues to serve the Danforth.

Irene manages the shop on her own, with help from family. She has watched clients grow up and raise children of their own. Many of these children also receive haircuts from Irene. Work is busy, but Irene has learned to manage: “I make sure to take two days off every week — Sunday and Monday…and I never cut hair at home.” I ask her if she has ever thought of hiring an assistant to help lighten the workload, but she says she could never do it. “This place is an extension of my family, my home. I couldn’t bring someone else in unless they were family.” She is protective of Lord Byron’s and its reputation in the neighbourhood. She has seen many barbershops close down or shift their focus to women’s hairstyling, which is far more lucrative.

Irene describes her type of business as a “dying breed,” but insists that the shop is not going anywhere. A man walks in while I am talking with her. She knows his name and the two converse in Greek. Lord Byron’s acts as more than a business to Irene — it is her home and her clients are family. “This is my street,” Irene tells me. But I think the street is her. She exemplifies what makes the Danforth unique and wonderful. In a city as big as Toronto, it is a treasure to find a place where people remember your name.

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