Frank La Spisa, the heart of Ralph’s barber shop, has cut and styled hair of Pelhamites since 2002

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Passing by Ralph’s Fifth Avenue Haircutting, or Ralph’s, as it as known to most, one will typically see a decent sized crowd of customers waiting their turn to get a trim. At the center of attention is a corps of barbers, focused just as much on each detail of the hair they’re styling as the jovial conversation they’re sure to be deep into. A quaint miniature village wraps around the walls of the shop. During the holidays, toy trains will chug through the store. There is a pleasantly cozy atmosphere inside, a sense of harmony that Pelham has grown so accustomed to.

Responsible for this harmony is Frank La Spisa, the welcoming owner of Ralph’s who has been cutting hair for almost his entire life. 

La Spisa took over the shop in January of 2002 and has run it ever since. Ralph’s was named after its previous owner. When asked about changing the name, La Spisa said, “I went to town hall to change the name, and those guys were scary. They said they didn’t want any more letters in the window.”

La Spisa has had an long relationship with haircutting. Growing up in Italy, he started as a barber’s apprentice at 12 years old. At the time, he wasn’t happy to miss out on time with his friends to cut hair.

“I didn’t like it in the beginning,” he said. “But it had its benefits because when I came to this country, I had a trade in my hands.”

When he got to America in 1966, La Spisa settled in New York City, where he spent many years as a barber. His new job afforded many memorable opportunities. One day, a man with no hair came into the shop asking for a haircut.

“My boss told me to make-believe give him a haircut,” said La Spisa. “So, I played around with the scissors and comb for a while, lifted up the mirror, and showed him. And he told me it was okay! This was a well-dressed guy, not a bum.”

After years of working as a barber in the city, La Spisa moved his business to Pelham. When his landlord closed down his shop, a friend recommended trying to buy a place in town.

“I came to talk with Ralph, made an agreement, and left the city to come here,” he said. “It’s been good ever since.”

Since then, Ralph’s has become a staple of Pelham. In a town with many hairdressers and barbers, Ralph’s has withstood the test of time due to the excellent haircuts they give and the sense of community the shop provides.

As for La Spisa, he’s happy right where he is. “I love this,” he said. “I love cutting hair. Years ago, I thought I was tired of cutting hair and I left for about a year.” La Spisa was pulled back into being a barber and is happy for it. “Every time I walked by a barbershop, I’d stop in front to look, and that’s when I realized I needed to go back. I never left it again.”