July 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The name Gaetano Ravallo probably does not mean anything to you. But, if you live in Teaneck, chances are the name Chubby might ring a bell. Chubby’s, the beloved barber shop on West Englewood Avenue, is now being run by Hoda, barber extraordinaire, because, as of a month ago, Chubby is retired. Interviewing him via telephone, landline, not cell, after all, an old- fashioned barber deserves respect in an old fashioned sort of way. Chubby is a sweet, personable man who told me, “There are way too many stories to tell.”

Let’s start with the name Chubby. His maternal aunt was a heavy-set woman who had cancer. Chubby was very close to her and would hold her hand after she had surgery and keep her company. She used to call him “chubanoost” because, as a baby, he was so chubby it was hard to lift him out of the crib. When she passed away in 1941, his nickname became Chubby, and it stuck with him up until this day. “Many people do not even know my real name,” he chuckled. “And,” he continued, “if you knew me, you would know that I am not chubby!”

Chubby got into the barber shop game in 1959, when he put out his first shingle on Elm Avenue. He was there for about a year or two. When J & J Pharmacy was going to expand, he moved to a store right near the movie theater on Cedar Lane. He was there for about 25 years. “The stores were all different back then. Little delis, the fish market, everything has changed.” The shop closed and he rented a chair at 5th Avenue salon on Cedar Lane, where he worked for three years or so. And then he bought the business on West Engelwood Avenue.

“My opening day was on Lag Ba’omer. I had no idea what that was at the time. There were about 30 people coming into the store at the same time and I was the only one there. There were mothers coming over to me, trying to teach me how to cut their son’s payes.”

Chubby could not emphasize enough the warmth he felt from the community from that day forward. “Elie (Katz) opened the Chinese place down the street; the whole atmosphere changed.”

Chubby told me that he has cut as many as three generations of hair. His one regret is that he was very close to cutting five generations of hair, but he retired before that could happen. That brings us to the Rosen family of Teaneck. Chubby has had the distinct honor of cutting Mr. Jack Ritter’s hair (great-grandfather, z”l); Marvin Rosen’s hair (son-in-law of Mr. Ritter); Kenny, Marc, and Michael Rosen’s hair (though, Michael has the least hair of the three brothers); Jonno Rosen’s hair (Michael’s son), and almost made it to Kenny’s grandson’s hair. The Rosen brothers are big fans of Chubby. Michael even told me that when he went to Israel for the year, he wrote to Chubby more than his own mother.

“I was supposed to meet Kenny when he was there for his year in Israel,” Chubby began to tell me. “We were going to meet in Egypt and drive through the desert, but something happened and it didn’t work out. My wife was from Finland and she ended up there. Kenny was very disappointed and so was I.”

Kevie Feit and his son were a two-generation guest of Chubby’s. “I used to go when I was a kid and Chubby’s was on Cedar Lane, and then when he moved to the West Englewood location, I started going again. When I was the mayor (of Teaneck), if I wanted to know what was really going on, I would ask Chubby,” Feit said.

While I was in the store speaking with Hoda, her customer was David Braun, a long-time Chubby’s client. “When I had off from MTA on Fridays, I would come to Chubby’s for a haircut. My dad and my brothers have also been coming here for about 10 years. We had heard through word of mouth that is was the best barber shop. I left the area for school, got married, and now I am back for a few years and went right back to Chubby’s!”

Hoda started her career in a salon in Oradell. “I was there for about five years and then I developed an allergy to the chemical in the hair dye,” She told me. “Chubby had put an ad in the paper looking for a barber. I showed up and have been here ever since. About 13 years.” Hoda loves the shop, loves the clientele and knows that people will really miss Chubby.

I asked Chubby about his retirement. “I really had to do it for health reasons. I had open-heart surgery two years ago and it really affected my knees. My wife passed away this past year and it was just time to move on.”

Life after Chubby’s will include spending time with his three granddaughters and visiting his son who has a “summer home” in Alaska. “He doesn’t like the heat, so he goes up there for a bit. His house is south of Anchorage and 20 miles from civilization.”

Chubby is quite passionate about hunting and fishing, two thing he will be able to do with his son. He will truly miss Chubby’s and his customers—who he really thinks of as family—and they will miss him right back.

Banji Latkin Ganchrow is a Teaneck resident and writer who enjoys traveling across the country by car with her husband and three sons. She is also the author of the blog holycrapimgonnabe40 and hopes to, one day, write a best-selling novel and appear on the Ellen Show.

By Banji Latkin Ganchrow

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