By Gabriel Debenedetti
Perhaps Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a curious choice of movie to be shown in a barbershop. But the staff at Keith’s Kuts is nothing like the murderous barber of the film recently on display, assures owner Keith Hill.
Keith’s Kuts aims to please. “You can have 10 people say you have a nice haircut, but if you have one [person] say you have a bad haircut, that can hurt you big-time,” Hill said.
For eight years now, Keith’s Kuts has thrived with the goal of providing haircuts on the “nice” side. Hill bought the store, then called Tony Gib’s, from his father-in-law, Tony Gibilisco, in September 2000. Gibilisco acquired the store in 1986; it had been in operation since 1953.
In 2004, the shopping center where the store was located caught fire and burned. Hill was forced to relocate. They were closed for about nine weeks. Now, though, the store is operating healthily. In the new location, Hill has gained customers.
“There’s more traffic coming through, more places to eat and shop,” he said.
With no clear specialty, Keith’s Kuts caters to a wide variety of customers.
“I have a customer who’s 94 years old, some as young as a year old. They all have to get their hair cut,” Hill said.
However, while there is variety, there is also stability: many customers are from The College of New Jersey, so some stay as customers for four years, and some stay in the area, remaining as clients.
In fact, said Hill, the morning’s first customer was a former TCNJ student from the early ‘80s who has made getting his hair cut at Keith’s a tradition.
As far as traditions go, the shop is a haven. Said Hill, “a large portion of our business is repeat business…some of our customers have been here for many, many years. Their dad went here, and now they’re bringing their children here…we build our business off the repeat customer.” In the spirit of maintaining the past, even the chairs in the shop are from the original location.
That sort of regularity is one of the reasons Keith’s Kuts has managed to function, in some form, for over 50 years. Now, it operates with three full-time barbers, including Hill, and one part-time barber, Gibilisco.
Said Hill, “We have a clean shop, we feel that we give a good haircut for the price that we have, and we’re very proud…I always say that whether or not I cut your hair, my name’s on that haircut as soon as it goes out the door.”
Hill said that he watches over the other barbers, but that they each have their own clientele.
For every client, new styles can be crafted. Said Hill, “long hair is kind of in; the unkempt look is in. A lot of guys still like the short haircuts. In the summer time, kids like crew cuts. Business guys have their business haircuts, but right now, it’s everything.”
Of course, even employees of a store with an established reputation and range can err without serious consequence once in a while: One barber, Dave Danley, explained the recent movie choice, Sweeney Todd, simply. “I said to myself, ‘I have to see this.’ But I didn’t know it was an opera.”
Keith’s Kuts is located at 1400 Parkway Ave. in Ewing, and can be reached at (609) 883-4033. Keith’s Kuts is open Mondays through Saturdays.