PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Apologies to W.C. Handy, but Peekskill has the real Beale Street Blues.
Musician and hair-cutter extraordinaire Mark Sinnis is packing up his pomade and electric clippers and moving out of town – way out of town.
This Saturday, the Beale Street Barber Shop on South Division Street will open its doors for the last time.
Like the Elvis memorabilia that makes his shop in the heart of the river town at once funky and cozy, the 52-year-old tattooed barber has accumulated tons of faithful customers and friends.
Many of them, coming into the Beale Street Barber Shop on South Division Street Wednesday to get their last cut, were visibly mourning his decision to move to Wilmington, N.C.
Finding a good barber is like finding a good doctor or a bartender, said one, sighing, as he sat slumped on a rococo blue velvet couch waiting his turn in Sinnis’ chair.
“I can count on one hand the number of barbers I had,” said George, who only wanted his first name to be used.
Holding up his punch card, the Yonkers native wryly noted that he had enough holes for a free snipping.
“I’m going to pay for it anyway, that’s not why I’m here,” he said.
George, who bantered with Sinnis as he worked on another customer, said he was hooked from the moment he walked into Beale Street.
“It’s a barber shop, not a salon,” he added with a slightly curled lip, not unlike Elvis’.
Two years ago, Sinnis started scouting around for a building he could buy in Peekskill.
Unable to find one that could fit his budget, and wanting to get out of a less-than-ideal relationship with his landlord, he decided last year to explore climes more affordable than New York.
Sinnis, whose parents live down South, landed on a space in Wilmington, which, he said, is a lot like Peekskill.
He wound up in the city in the first place because it reminded him of Greenwich Village, where he used to play in the 1980s as a punk rocker.
Music is still a big passion of his; he fronts a band whose tunes have been described as “cemetery and Western” – or a darker version of Hank Williams’ or Johnny Cash’s.
His new place is in an artists’ district, too, surrounded by a tattoo parlor, record store and art gallery.
Like his present set-up, it will have a stage for performers – “Right up front, though, in the window,” he said.
Sinnis said Beale Street’s vibe tried to “capture the spirit of Southern hospitality.”
New Yorkers are always rushing around with their faces buried in their mobile devices, but at the barber shop they can can take their time and decompress, Sinnis said.
Meanwhile, as Beale Street’s days wind down, saddened customers are wondering where they will find someone they can trust to cut their hair.
“He was the first man I allowed to put a razor to my throat,” joked George about letting Sinnis shave him “old-school” style, adding: “He will be missed, he will be missed.”
“Farewells are not fun,” said Sinnis, getting slightly choked up.
But, he said, he is focusing on the positives not the negatives.
“It’s been an awesome four years.”