Hair’s to History: Boston Barber Co Continues its Tradition as a Local Landmark

By Cary Shuman

Boston Barber Co. owner Robert Dello Russo is well aware why Boston tour bus and trolley operators illuminate about his Bowdoin Street shop on their daily rounds.

It’s been a barbershop since 1927, serving everyone from molasses factory  workers to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Kennedy lived above the barbershop, located just steps from the Statehouse, while running for Congress in 1946. JFK, of course, won that Congressional election, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1952, re-elected in 1958, and victorious in the Presidential election of 1960.

When you walk into the Boston Barber Co. today, you’ll find a large picture of Kennedy standing in front of the now historic barbershop sign.

Following the success of his first shop, Boston Barber and Tattoo Co. in the North End, Dello Russo opened a second shop at the Beacon Hill location in 2012. The shop is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month and business is brisk.

Benny D’Ambrosio, whom Dello Russo named as manager of the shop known as “The Barbershop on the Hill,” said neighbors welcomed the shop from the beginning.

“We’re celebrating our five years this month,” said D’Ambrosio. “It’s been unbelievable. We started off with one barber, which was me, and soon after, we had two, three, four barbers, and now we’re up to five.”

The shop has added a comfortable downstairs waiting room where customers can watch television and read newspapers and magazines.

What makes Boston Barber Company so special – besides the fact that one of the most popular of all U.S. Presidents once lived upstairs?

“We have very good barbers and it’s a laidback atmosphere where we talk about everything – politics, news, sports,” said D’Ambrosio. “We’re easy to make friends with and the barbers are always interacting and the customers get a kick out of it.”

Some state senators, representatives, and officials come in to the shop for haircuts. D’Ambrosio says he treats all customers equally with ample care and professionalism.

D’Ambrosio formerly worked as a master barber at the North End shop when Dello Russo, his cousin, approached him about managing a new shop in Beacon Hill.

“It’s worked out perfectly,” said D’Ambrosio about his decision to accept the management position. “All my customers followed me here. The rate that this place grew as a business is amazing. I think it’s the reputation of our other shop along with our location, which you can’t beat. We have so many regulars – people that live and work here.”

Students from nearby Suffolk University are also regulars, with incoming freshmen beginning a four-year cycle of home-away-from-home-hair care on “The Hill.”

 Haircuts are $25 and hot shaves are available Monday through Thursday.

D’Ambrosio hears constantly about the JFK connection to his shop. “The tours talk about the President and there’s one guy who makes everyone say, “Bah-Bah Shop,” in their best Boston accent.”

A master barber for 20 years, the 41-year-old D’Ambrosio is grateful to his cousin for giving him the opportunity to manage a shop.

“Robert had this vision and he opened a shop,” said D’Ambrosio. “He believed in me. We’ve been best friends for our whole life and anyone who works for my cousin is a very lucky person because Robert is a very giving person and very understanding because he’s been through it all. He knows the ins and outs, the ups and downs.”