By: Mike Anderson
After 31 years of barbering, Rosemary Zammit is hanging up her hair-cutting shears, barber combs and hairdryer for good.
Affectionately known as Rosie, her barber shop, in the Driftwood Motel on Dalton Rd, has been a staple in Sutton since 2008 — where folks can get a good, affordable haircut, friendly service, a few laughs, and the latest town gossip.
Now, Rosie is retiring and will give her the last haircut on Christmas Eve. She admits it’s going to be bittersweet.
“People depend on me. I’m going to disappoint a lot of people. Certain customers aren’t just customers; they become part of your life,” says Rosie — who’s got some health issues to address, and wants more time to spend with her family that includes five grandchildren.
Don Sedore has been coming to Rosie for more than 30 years.
“I wouldn’t come back if I didn’t like the haircut,” he says. “And there’s always a good conversation; what’s going on in the town, or over at the Legion.”
“I know I will have to find somebody else, and I’m not happy with it.”
Rosie’s dad Joe and uncle Chuck, both originally from Malta, started cutting hair in Toronto in the 1950s, their clients included actor Paul Newman and NHL players, like Eddie Shack and Bobby Orr.
Joe moved to Sutton to raise a family and opened Zammit’s Barber Shop on High Street in 1966, which is now operated by Rosie’s cousin Raymond.
Eventually, Joe invited Rosie to join him and taught her the ropes. Rosie is grateful that her dad took her under his wing, but she says the barber shop business has changed a lot over the years:
“Back in the 70s men had longer hair than women. So men didn’t go to the barbers. Back then, I was a nerd because I was the barber’s daughter. Now I’m the barber, and they want a haircut. Men groom themselves way more now than they ever have.”
But for some men, Rosie’s offers more than a good haircut or a beard trim. Some, mostly widowers, enjoy just hanging out at her barbershop.
“A lot of older men plan their day around their haircut,” says Rosie. “We’ll have a social and then they’ll go home. It’s a different conversation that you would have man-to-man.”
Rosie also cuts hair for folks with health issues, including women who are going through chemotherapy.
“Some women don’t want to see their hair in the sink. So I shave their heads,” she says. “I kicked three guys out to give one woman some privacy. It’s a tough part of the job. But you have to keep your cool and make sure that they don’t get upset. It’s very emotional for a woman when they’re losing their hair; it’s different than a man because that’s part of your attraction to your partner.”
But it hasn’t always been emotionally draining. She’s had a lot of fun times too. She remembers giving babies their first haircuts, getting teens spiffy for their graduations, and grooms looking sharp for their wedding day.
“I’ve been cutting one customer’s hair since he was in grade five,” she says. “I watched him meet his wife. She’s like my daughter. Her two kids are grown now and still come to me for haircuts. So they are going to miss me because I’ve been part of their family. I’m like their second mom. So they’re going to be quite shocked.”
If you are one of Rosie’s clients, make sure to drop by and get a last cut before she retires. Like Don says, if you’re “looking shabby,” better get yourself to Rosies!