LaLima’s Barber Shop, founded by Joseph LaLima in 1968, has been located at 680 Broadway since 1974, across from the Sunoco station. The $9 hair cuts and $8 shaves—a microwave oven has been reconfigured as a “UV towel warmer”—glass case stocked with boxes of hair gel, and two barber chairs reside in a narrow, linoleum-floored space resplendent with personal mementoes: framed Marine Corps. certificates, antique barber paraphernalia, a Harley Davidson sign, a postcard of Kingston’s old post office, and several paintings by Joseph’s son, Joseph Jr., including a large, black-and-white portrait of local boxer Billy Costello, gloves at the ready. One has entered not just a store, but a psychic space, redolent of old Kingston. It’s hardly a surprise to discover that the mustached customer who is having his neck powdered is a county legislator, his presence confirming LaLima’s assertion that it is his steady clientele, loyal over four decades, that have kept him in business all these years.
As someone who’s been located on Broadway for a very long time, LaLima, who owns his building and rents out an apartment upstairs, has a valuable perspective. He said the city’s first priority should be attracting businesses, to fill the vacant storefronts. He also had some good news: the building next door has been bought and the empty ground floor is about to reopen as an art studio.
LaLima said that despite the out-of-control school taxes, rising Central Hudson bills and costs of opening a business, Kingston is still relatively affordable. Having traveled across country on his Harley—a framed picture on the wall shows him riding his bike in the wide-open spaces out West, his hair blowing in the wind—LaLima said he’s always glad to come to back to his home town. He was born in Kingston, raised in a house on Greenkill Avenue, and attended St. Joseph’s; his father, who was born in Italy, arrived in Kingston as a baby and worked on the railroad.
LaLima had an uncle who was a barber and decided to one become himself. He enjoys being his own boss, and no matter how bad the economy gets, people always need a haircut. His prescription for improving the city? A Giulani-style clean up of Midtown. Midtown, he said, “is forgotten…it’s on the back burner.”
Meanwhile, Joseph Jr. and his girlfriend, Liz Baker, are opening a combination art gallery-café-clothing boutique in the expansive, handsome corner storefront at 63 Broadway next month. After graduating from Pratt Institute in 1995, Joseph returned to Kingston and did a variety of jobs, including creating special effects for the World Wrestling Federation, which required him to travel. The store will be called Aesthetics, and it will sell vintage and new clothing, jewelry (including hand-crafted pieces by Joseph’s friend Nicole Pagano), and baked goods provided by the family (specifically, Joseph’s mother, who is a partner) and local eateries.
The May show will feature paintings by Joseph and Mike Hart. Joseph said he plans to show overlooked local artists and hopes to eventually offer classes for kids, as well as sponsor mural projects in Midtown.
It’ll be a real family business, involving the couple’s children, nieces and nephews, as well as Joseph’s mother Susan. “We’ll have lots of help,” said Liz. They plan to be open by the first Saturday in May, so that they can participate in the city’s weekly gallery walk. –Lynn Woods