Bristol news Legendary hairdresser to leave Bristol after 47 years MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - Nicholas Grasso has run Casanova hair salon on Sandy Park Road since 1973
Breaking News ! A Brislington hairdresser has shared memories of his 47 years working on Sandy Park Road as he prepares for retirement. Nicholas Grasso, who runs the Casanova salon, will swap Bristol for Woolacombe in North Devon after he finishes his final shift on November 3 – the day before his 70th birthday. Casanova will remain open and Mr Grasso will keep ownership, but the veteran hairdresser says he and his customers – some regulars since 1973 – are “very sad” he is putting down his scissors. From dressing as Santa each Christmas to bank clerks thinking his business was a brothel, Mr Grasso has enjoyed a colourful stint on Sandy Park Road. Asked how much the street has changed since 1973, the dad-of-two said: “Everything has changed and not for better. “When I first came here, we had five butchers, two greengrocers, gents’ outfitters, a ladies’ shop, children’s shop, shoe shop. Read More Related Articles Is there new hope for East Street - Bristol's forgotten high street? “Now it is all estate agents and cafes. We have four estate agents. We don’t need that in the street – one would suffice. We had five hairdressers until one closed a few weeks ago. “We could do with more originality like we had in the old days. There are seven empty units, which is a lot for a small street.” An empty unit on Sandy Park Road (Image: John Myers) Mr Grasso traces the street’s decline back to big chains opening in the area during the 1980s and 90s, though he says the “wonderful” Sandy Park Greengrocers has had queues out the door since opening last month. He added: “Everything was going smoothly here until Sainsbury’s, Tesco and B&Q came along, killing all the small shops.” Born in Bath, Mr Grasso took his hairdressing apprenticeship there, joining the same trade as his father Bino, who previously ran Casanova. After two years working on a cruise ship, he received a fateful call from his dad in 1973. “He asked if I wanted to buy half the shop from the other fella he owned it with,” Mr Grasso recalled. Looking for today's top stories in one place? Sign up for our newsletter here “It was very strange, because they were both hotheads. When I came in to see them, they were at each other’s throats. “My dad and the co-owner were both Italian hot-blooded guys, and they couldn’t stand each other. They’d disagree on anything, and they’d do it in front of the customers. “I said, ‘Don’t do that in front of clients.’ It was like two kids in a school yard. The other fella was happy to sell me his half, and he opened up a pizzeria on Wells Road.” Mr Grasso says his dad was “lovely” but could be “a bit cantankerous” when they worked together. “He did not argue with me as much as he did with the other guy – he had no choice because I would put him in his place,” Mr Grasso joked. He revealed the salon’s name was not a nod to famous 18th-century Italian ladies' man Giacomo Casanova, as many have assumed. Nicholas Grasso outside Casanova (Image: John Myers) “My dad called it Casanova, because it means something like new house in Italian. “It was a bit weird going to the bank to deposit cheques for Casanova – they looked at me quite strangely, thinking I was running a brothel or something.
. “We would dress as Santa, the Grinch, Elf, every year,” he laughed. “We did it up until three years ago, when we stopped because various staff didn’t want to carry on.” Another happy time came in 1996, when Mr Grasso and his friend Dave Lewis, of next-door insurance business Clutterbuck and Lewis, made a big fundraising effort. For news tailored to your local area, powered by In Your Area:
“Dave was the organiser. We wanted to do something nice for children, so we accumulated a lot of charity money. “We went out onto Sandy Park Road dressed as nurses and doctors, wearing wigs, and we’d stop cars to ask if we could have some money. “They very willingly gave it to us because we looked ridiculous. “We raised a lot of money then drove all the way to Romania for eight days, to do some humanitarian aid. We were helping at orphanages, things like that." Casanova has always offered hairdressing for both men and women. When Mr Grasso came in, it had about eight stylists, though the team has since shrunk to four. “At the start we were so busy because we were the only hairdressers on the street,” he said.
Nicholas Grasso with Casanova staff Mitzi Gane, Leila Ajdari and Suzanne Huckstep
(Image: John Myers)
“People were queuing outside to come in. When the 80s came along, things started going downhill." Mr Grasso became the sole owner after his dad retired in 1992. “By that time, people didn’t come weekly, they came every two to four weeks,” he said. “We didn’t get the passing trade, which had been killed off when the big shops came in. “Gradually we picked up a bit of speed after the 2000s but then more hairdressers opened up, and each one took a percentage off our income, and you’ve got to accept that. “There is no ill will over that – everybody’s got to survive.”
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Keeping the shop going has not always been a stress-free experience for Mr Grasso. “I should probably have retired five years ago, but I’ve clung on to near death,” he said. “I was going to retire in April, but I couldn’t leave the girls on their own through coronavirus and everything that needed sorting like PPE, so I postponed it. “I will still be owner, but the manageress is taking charge and I think she has new ideas which she is keeping close to her chest. It will be nice to have younger people looking after it. “I live in Winford, but I will be moving to Woolacombe, which has the best beach in the South West and lots of surfing. It is really beautiful. “Some of my customers have been with me right from the start, which is amazing. It is a very sad moment to move on.”
Source = MetiNews.Com