Soon after high school, John Passerelli started cutting hair at a salon in Larchmont. It was his sister’s idea. “I had plans to be a singer, but she urged me to get a real job,” he recalled with a grin. The year was 1963.
By Robin Jovanovich
Soon after high school, John Passerelli started cutting hair at a salon in Larchmont. It was his sister’s idea. “I had plans to be a singer, but she urged me to get a real job,” he recalled with a grin. The year was 1963. Five years later, the owner, Lou Larizza, asked John to manage Milano’s, his downtown Rye salon. In 1972, Larizza made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: to buy the business.
“I moved the shop across the street and the business just grew year by year,” he said. “We added nail services and ear piercing. I got to know every member of many families, and several generations.”
When the news got out a few weeks ago that John had sold the business, longtime clients started streaming in, saddened and worried about finding another stylist with whom they could talk about everything — their children, their health, the local gossip, and what is happening and not happening fast enough in downtown Rye.
This Saturday is the last business day for Milano’s. It will be a busy last day — lots of appointments, many customers coming by to say goodbye to the staff, and cake and coffee for all.
Life has a way of coming full circle. Not one to skip a beat, John will join the staff of Casual Hair Design, the longtime business at 5 Highland Road, next week. The owner is Kathy Larizza, Lou’s wife. He’ll be there Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
“I know I’ll be seeing Beth Dolce, Sue Scully, Penny Carr, and so many others soon,” he said.
And the other good news: the business is staying in “the family.” Joe Ballantoni, whose mother, Sylvana, and aunt, Adelaide DeCrescenzo, have worked for John for many years, has bought the business and will, with his partner, open a new salon at 33 Purchase Street soon.
Sylvana will have more time to make meatballs for her son-in-law, Jim Richardson, owner of Molly’s Midland Market. Carole Pellegrino is moving up the street to work at Town & Country, the now oldest hair salon in town. Celia Mera will join John at Casual Hair. Lucille Smalley already moved to Virginia. The other longtime members of the crew — Carmen, Vera, Bert, Sylvia, and Joanne — will be there on Saturday for the celebration.
While John acknowledges that he’ll miss running a business, he’ll be able to spend more time on his small fishing boat, and take care of his old house, the one he grew up in on Grace Church Street in Port Chester. He looks forward to finally making a new CD; his old singing group, the Don-a-tones, is coming out of retirement. The group is now four members, not six, and the album will be dedicated to the two members who have passed away.
John said that, “What I learned along the way is that you get more out of life serving a community than you do making money.” He added, with a smile, “But if I were a writer, the stories I could tell.”