Mario Labelle Hairstylists
- 261 Kennedy Street
Most people think the amiable Italian barber who works at Mario La Belle is the Mario.
But really, though Gerry Mariani’s been working at the shop with owner Sally D’Ancangelo for over 25 years, there was another Italian hairstylist who came first – the original owner of the salon, named Mario.
D’Ancangelo bought the salon from its second owner, and the name stuck.
Without intending it, the name works pretty well for a place that is half-barber shop, half-salon.
With the barbershop chair facing the storefront, men can enjoy a classically intimate setting for watching downtown passersby on Kennedy Street while chatting with a barber who’s been on his game for over 50 years.
Mariani had his own shop downtown before joining forces with D’Ancangelo, and finally, reducing to part-time hours at 70 years old.
Along with the longevity of the salon and the incredible combined experience of both stylists, D’Ancangelo and Mariani can credit some pretty longstanding relationships to the bulk of their business success.
Some people are so loyal, it runs in their blood. “Some I do for three generations,” says Mariani, of his most deeply committed customers.
As an elderly lady makes her exit, D’Ancangelo advises, “she’s here every week. We used to have lots of those,” she says of the declining tradition.
“Now we have mostly working people that just come for haircuts. We have enough to get busy, but we want people to know that we’re here.”
If not for the competitive pricing or their mastery of the craft, it’s worth taking a seat at Mario La Belle for a history lesson.
“We’ve been here too long,” jokes Mariani, who’s been cutting hair since he was 16 in Italy, and hasn’t put down the shears since arriving in Winnipeg in 1968.
“Being downtown for 50 years, we have lots of stories. I’ve seen the best and the worst. I think in 10 years, it could look really different,” says Mariani.
With retro-leaning storefront signage, plus the pink leather dryer hoods that have been drying D’Ancangelo’s clients’ perms – her specialty – for decades, the store earnestly roots you in the history of its term downtown, while remaining comfortable and not seeming tired or out-of-touch.
Certainly, as with all the best stylists, D’Ancangelo and Mariani know how to hook people with their warm presence to keep you coming back. (Some for generations.)