Stylist leaves trail of nice cuts, fond words

'Meticulous and caring' hairdresser retires after decades working at The Mall in Columbia

June 29, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,Sun reporter

Stanley Weinberg started styling hair as part of his physical therapy for a hand injury he received during basic training for the Army.

Nearly 40 years later, Weinberg has retired as a hairdresser - and he's leaving behind a slew of saddened clients and co-workers, while taking with him decades of Columbia memories.

Weinberg, whose final day working was last Saturday, has been a stylist at Rafet's Hairmasters for more than 39 years. The salon opened in the Oakland Mills village center in 1969 and moved two years later to The Mall in Columbia.

He has been a hairdresser since 1958, making his start in hair salons in New York, where he was born and grew up.

"I love people, and I like to make people feel good," Weinberg said.

The 69-year-old's little-black-book-of-regulars has included Columbia founder James Rouse's wife, Patricia, and actor Robert Cummings.

In his study, he kept autographed photos of television star Imogene Cocoa and reporter Mike Wallace, who were clients when he worked in Manhattan before coming to Columbia in 1969.

A Bronx native, Weinberg drove a taxi cab at nights when he owned a shop in Riverdale, N.Y., to help pay his stylists' salaries - his shop was at the bottom of a hill, and during the snowy winters, it was impossible for clients to make it to the shop, he said.

Despite his New York roots, Weinberg fell in love with Columbia. After moving to Washington from New York, he decided to move to Columbia with his wife and sons - a change from the hustle-bustle life he was used to in the city.

One of his most memorable experiences as a hairdresser here was when a fire broke out in the mall and he continued to cut a client's hair on the outdoor patio after everyone was ushered out of the mall by firefighters.

One longtime client, Gloria Goldman, said Weinberg and his wife, Slava, have become close friends of her family since the couple got married 10 years ago. Goldman has been Weinberg's client for 36 years, and was also friends with his first wife, who died of cancer.

"He's meticulous and caring, compassionate and entertaining," said Goldman of Columbia. "He's become like a member of our family."

Weinberg said that his signature style is using scissors rather than razors as many hairstylists do these days.

"That's what makes me probably different from everybody else," he said. "I prefer precision haircutting,"

Goldman said that's one reason why she will miss Weinberg so much.

"I wear my hair short," she said. "He always makes me look phenomenal, and now that I'm 62, he makes me look so young. He uses scissors, which I can't find anywhere else.

"He takes care of each strand of hair. ... You could walk around town and tell who had a Stanley haircut."

Goldman said she also recalls the fascinating stories that Weinberg told while he was doing her hair.

"He doesn't ever see that what he does makes a difference," she said, noting Weinberg's efforts to get equal education for his son, who grew up with dyslexia.

"He just thinks he's an ordinary guy. A Stanley haircut is worth its weight in gold."

Irfan Gurbuz, whose father founded Rafet's Hairmasters, said Weinberg has "been around like a father figure" for him.

"He's the one that wrote the 'Welcome to America' sign for us," Gurbuz said of his family's arrival from Turkey in 1972.

Gurbuz said among Weinberg's assets is his dedication.

"He's the best - always there, always stuck to his schedule," he said. "He was like clockwork.

Although Weinberg says he loves Columbia - his two sons and five grandchildren live here - he and his wife will embark on the next stage of his life in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"I expect to be doing haircuts a little bit on my own time," he said. "I'm going to miss Columbia very much. I love the people. I love the whole life of Columbia."

tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

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