YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Upon his retirement, Anthony Chiaverini, owner of A Cut Above, closed the salon’s doors Christmas Eve. After almost 45 years of business, Chiaverini, his employees and their long-time client base gathered to say goodbye.
What was scheduled to be a one-night blowout in honor of Chiaverini’s retirement ended up being thwarted by bad weather. It turned into a two-week-long reception as clients trickled in and out to wish Chiaverini good luck. Some stayed for hours enjoying leftover refreshments from the party and reminiscing. Hair was cut and styled right until the end.
Like any “weird little family,” the self-imposed term by the salon’s most-tenured stylist, Diana Kelly, there are some things that in retrospect they do not agree on. One of Chiaverini’s favorite memories from the gang’s time at the shop is when he asked Kelly; their most loyal customer, Lorraine Simone; and Kelly’s sister to appear on a Cablevision public access show as a favor to a client to do a hair and makeup segment.
“He goes, ‘Nobody’s gonna see it; don’t worry,’” said Simone, who has lived in Yorktown for 56 years. “Then, three days later, people were like, ‘Oh, Lorraine, I saw you.’” She jokes that she could have killed Chiaverini at the time, but laughs about it now.
While Simone and Kelly are relieved that YouTube didn’t exist at the time to permanently capture the segment, Chiaverini remembers it fondly. Other favorite memories of his include milestones such as the births of stylists’ children or the weddings of his own. Chiaverini and Kelly, who has worked at the salon for 35 years, describe the staff and clientele as a second family. The salon’s warm atmosphere encouraged many clients to return, making it a lasting presence in the town.
“The staff there was incredible. That’s why I stayed there for so long,” Simone said. While Simone is sad to see the salon close, she is happy for Chiaverini and wishes him the best.
Chiaverini moved to Yorktown in 1973, a year after he opened the salon in town. He and his wife, Carol, and their two children lived in Yorktown until 1986, when they moved to their current residence in Montrose. After 20 years, the salon was moved to its most recent location in the Triangle Center.
A Bronx native, Chiaverini graduated high school in 1962. He had a few jobs after graduation, including one he worked briefly at the printing press manufacturer, R. Hoe & Co. He followed the path of many of his friends and attended hairdressing school, finishing in 1965. It was there that he met Carol, who was one of the subjects the stylists-in-training would practice their skills on. After about four months of dating, Chiaverini was drafted into the Army to serve in the Vietnam War.
“He said, ‘You know what, Carol? Don’t wait around for me because I might not come home,” she said.
Lucky for him, she did not listen. She wrote him letters, sent care packages and checked in on his family over the next 12 months. When he came back, the two resumed their courtship and were married a year later.
Chiaverini came home a combat veteran and welcomed the change of pace that came with his return to hairstyling. He took a refresher course and began working part-time at a salon near Yankee Stadium. He then worked at the Charles of the Ritz Beauty Salon on the second floor of what was the B. Altman and Co. department store in Manhattan. After working there for about three years, he decided it was time to branch out on his own. That was when he set his sights north of the city to open his shop.
Now, after almost 45 years of operating in Yorktown, Chiaverini looks back with no regrets.
“If I wasn’t happy, I would have given up a long time ago,” he said. “It was very rewarding.”
Carol has been retired from her teaching career for two years. Their children are fully grown and the couple has four grandchildren—all boys—whom they look forward to seeing more of in their retirement. Chiaverini said he would also like to devote more time to volunteer work, gardening and other relaxing activities.
The couple has travelled the world and visited places such as Hawaii, Europe and Peru and will be staying in Florida during the upcoming months. Chiaverini wants to arrange a visit to Vietnam and Cambodia and sees it as an opportunity to heal from his time spent there.
“It changed my life,” he said of his experience during the war. “You come back and you’re not the same person as when you went.”
A glass-half-full person, Chiaverini didn’t let any trauma get the best of his jovial attitude, high-energy levels, and tendency to joke around. He said he came back more appreciative of his life in America.
“He’s got a great personality; very friendly, funny, great boss, good friend,” Kelly said. “Just an all-around great guy.”
He chalks his resilient nature, sense of humor and overall spritely-ness to his Bronx upbringing.
“You can take the boy out of the Bronx, but you can’t take the Bronx out of the boy,” he said.
Kelly said she and the rest of the staff have transferred to a new salon, Lorese Salon & Spa in Yorktown, and that their long-time clients have followed. She added that while she and the clients are sad to see the end of an era, she is happy for Chiaverini and thankful for the years they all spent at their “home away from home.”
Chiaverini said closing the shop ended up being a bit difficult, as it was tough to say goodbye to many close friends and clients. After a year of overcoming some health problems, he’s feeling good and is confident he will be in touch with many of them.
“Life has to go on to another chapter,” he said. Many of his customers and coworkers simply told him, ‘Don’t say goodbye; just say I’ll see you.”