Shear inspiration



Ted Winston

The smell of Barbasol and hairspray lets people know that they have arrived at the right place. Nestled in Dougherty near the west stairwell to the Pit is the campus barbershop. Stepping into it is like traveling back in time. The old-fashioned vinyl chairs and the well-worn tiles suggest that the shop may have seen better days, yet the people who work there are just the opposite.

Vince Donia has been both the owner and barber of the Villanova shop for over 10 years. The shop originally belonged to Donia’s cousin, Joe. The shift in ownership began when Donia’s cousin was out of town and he needed someone to fill in for him. 

“He kept delaying coming back, so eventually the shop just changed hands to me,” Donia says. While he did not grow up dreaming of becoming a haircutter, Donia attended barber school before starting business at Villanova.

His goal as a barber is straightforward. 

“Give the customer what they want – that way they will come back,” Donia says. “Trust between a customer and his barber is important.”

Over the years, the owner has seen hairstyles change, but the cuts that his customers ask for are still familiar. 

What has also not changed is Donia’s clientele. Predominantly male, the barbershop has many ROTC customers, due to the requirement of short hair for male students in the program. 

The shop is trying to change this, however. Donia is not the only barber in the shop – Erica Damiani, a young woman who went to cosmetology school, hopes to attract more female  patrons. 

“I’ve always wanted to cut hair,” she says, “and I hope that my being here will make more girls want to get their hair cut here.”

“She’s the new girl,” Donia says of Damiani, who has been here for two years. “Girls are more comfortable with Erica.”

The two are an interesting team, often casually teasing the other and using each other as their personal hairstylists. Nonetheless, they are efficient, with Donia alone performing around 20 haircuts a day. He estimates cleaning up about three pounds of hair off the floor at closing time. 

While giving a good haircut is his first priority, Donia also enjoys the conversations he has with his customers. 

“You probably can’t print a lot of the conversations I have with my customers,” he says. “They can get out of control.”

Recently, the conversations have been about Halloween costumes. Donia told one customer about the Halloween when he was a Viagra patient. 

With 10 years of cutting hair, Vince has his share of interesting stories.

“The coolest customer I had was NHL player Ben Simon [who has played for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Atlanta Thrashers and is now a part of the Toronto Marlies].”

That was not his most memorable haircut, though.

“This one kid came in once a week for three weeks around Christmas time to get the shape of a candy cane shaved into the back of his head,” he says.

The passion he puts into his business does not extend into his personal life as much as it does for Damiani. 

“When I am out of the shop, I don’t really look at people’s haircuts,” Donia says, noting that the exceptions are people with noticeably bad haircuts. Damiani notices those, too.

 “When I am out, like at the mall or somewhere, I definitely notice other girls’ haircuts,” she says. 

Together they like to mull over celebrity haircuts.

“Zach Galifianakis is one of a few people who could pull off that beard so well,” Donia says. 

“I think Cristiano Ronaldo has the best hair,” Damiani says.

Small talk such as this, however, is always a second priority for the barbers. 

“My customers expect quality, and I gave that to them,” Donia says.

Tom Malloy, who works for custodial services, can support that statement, as he has been going to the barbershop every week for as long as he has been here, which is over 22 years. He was originally one of Diona’s cousin’s customers. 

Malloy says that he is guaranteed a great service, a great haircut and great conversation whenever he visits the barbershop. 

“I’m pretty vanilla,” Malloy says. “I get the same cut each time. I go to Vince because of the inviting environment of the shop – he’s very specific about how he’s cutting the customer’s hair.”