Bob Lenari started cutting hair in 1956, hoping barber school might help him avoid the army. "I had a choice, go to school or get drafted," he recalls. "I wound up doing both."
After a stint in the reserves, Lenari opened a shop in Ringling Shopping Center, then moved to John Baldwin's St. Armands clothing store in 1966. (Baldwin figured a barber would bring in more male buyers.) When Baldwin died in 1992, Lenari moved to Taffy's, where he still works in his tidy eight-foot-square room, complete with candy-striped barber pole. He arrives by 6:30 a.m. (so his older and handicapped clients can park in front of the building), and finishes by 3 p.m.
At 68, the compact, wiry Lenari looks like a 50-year-old bantamweight boxer, thanks to years of marathon running. He still lives in the Whitaker Bayou home his father bought in 1948, and has no plans to retire. "I get to meet a lot of people here," he says. "And it's nice and cold in the summer and warm in the winter."