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Wednesday, November 17,2010

An 'institution' moves on

Perrelli's Barber and Style Shop closes after 54 years downtown

by Andy Balaskovitz
Most people know Alfredo “Fred” Perrelli as an ambassador to his community. He’s the guy who could talk straight with governors and attorneys general, serve charity meals to the needy and whip somebody good on the golf course.

And he gave a first-rate haircut.


Perrelli, an Italian immigrant and Lansing resident, decided to close at 410 S. Washington Square recently, leaving a thank-you note and a charity golf outing invitation on the door.


The 1970s era décor still adorns the darkened barbershop while newspapers sit on the coffee table, as if waiting for the next big-name politician to come and get his haircut.


Perrelli’s was known to serve the likes of former Attorney General Frank Kelley and former Gov. James Blanchard, who would trot over from the Capitol every few weeks for a haircut.


Blanchard said he got his haircut at Perrelli’s for eight years, and has gone back now and again after former Gov. John Engler succeeded him in 1992.


“That was a real institution,” he said. “It was an escape from the office for a few minutes.”


Blanchard remembers the miniature putting green at the shop and how he wasn’t “good enough to play golf with Fred.”


The privacy was generally good for a governor, he said, but someone would occasionally walk by Perrelli’s and do “the doubletake.”


“Every once in a while they’d come in and talk my head off,” he said. “But it’s a shame they’re winding down. Good people, good family. I miss them.”


Fred’s brother Mike Perrelli worked at the shop since 1974, after moving to Lansing from Canada and before that from Italy. He speaks modestly with a distinct Italian accent about all the good times they shared.

“So many years — 34 years — a lot of things happen,” he said. “It was always fun to listen.”

Fred Perrelli declined to be interviewed. Mike Perrelli said there was far more people walking around downtown during those days, but that it is “picking up a little bit again.”


He says he will miss the people the most.


“We had quite a group in there. There were always nice people.”


Mike Perrelli still cuts hair three days a week at Kositchek’s on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.


Al Maywood, who manages Downtown Smoking Club two doors down from Perrelli’s, used to bring coffee to Fred every morning — “two sugars, black,” he said. “That’s how he liked it.”


Maywood said he got his haircut at Perrelli’s “all the time” and would often chat with Fred on the back patio of the smoking club.


“He was a thoughtful guy with great historical perspective,” Maywood said. “We never did get out to play golf together, but that’s the way it goes I guess.”


Kelley, who served as Michigan’s attorney general for 37 years, was last in Perrelli’s a month ago and had been going there for 40 years.


The gruff Irish-American softens when reflecting on Perrelli’s.


“He was a young brunette, so was I. Now I’m gray and lost my hair — he lost his money on me,” Kelley joked.


Kelley recalls hosting an Irish-American golf outing where proceeds would go back to
charitable groups in both North and southern Ireland during the
country’s civil troubles. The winner of the tournament got a trip to the
Emerald Isle.


“One
of the tournaments I had, Freddy Perrelli won it and a trip to
Ireland,” Kelley said. “He thinks I’m the king of the world. I kid him,
‘When are you going to send me to Italy?’” The 85-year-old Kelley, who
still does governmental consulting work in Lansing, said he didn’t talk
politics much at Perrelli’s.


“You don’t know who was listening in there — maybe someone from the Pulse,” he laughed.


Kelley
said Perrelli’s closing down “marks the end of an era to say the
least.” As of now, he’s unsure where he will go for his haircuts.


“When I look like a caveman next time you see me, you know what happened.”


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