At the end of August, Joe DeMario will be closing down his Westerly, Rhode Island barbershop after 54 years of business to enter into retirement.
Joe DeMario is a child of Westerly, and his business is popular locally. Before opening the barbershop, he attended a barber school in Boston at the age of 16 and did three and a half years of apprenticeship work before owning his own shop. Over the years, he’s loved giving haircuts to boys taking their first communion, but has dreaded giving those same haircuts to boys going off to join the military, “because I never knew if they’d come back in one piece,” he said.
Now, just before his retirement, Joe is giving back to veterans in need. To celebrate his retirement, the shop owner will be taking all his proceeds from the last two days of business and donating them to Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, a nonprofit that provides assistance to homeless and at-risk veterans.
“I wanted to do something for the community and everybody else seems to have enough, but veterans often don’t,” said DeMario. His father and brother are both veterans having served in World War II and Vietnam, respectively. He also lost a cousin who served in Vietnam.
Charlestown Town Council President Tom Gentz helped DeMario pick the nonprofit after many conversations in the barber’s chair. Operation Stand Down had recently built housing units in Westerly, which is how Tom Gentz thought of the nonprofit.
Operation Stand Down will be able to use the proceeds from the shop for anything they want. Normally, their funds are budgeted by the federal government for particular projects, but donated money can be used however the directors of the organization see fit.
The barbershop is projected to earn $1,000 in the two days Joe is collecting, which goes straight into funding for veterans in need of housing.