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After 62 Years, Chelsea Barber Prepares For Retirement

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Manuel Castillo, a barber of 62 years, will retire when his shop on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea closes soon in order to make room for a bigger tenant in his building. NY1's Roger Clark filed this report.

Over 62 years of cutting hair, Manuel Castillo says his conversations with customers have run the gamut.

"Medicine, history, baseball, football, basketball, women, politics," he said. "Everything, yes, everything."

The 80-year-old, known to friends as "Manolo," is retiring when his shop on Ninth Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets closes, one of several stores shutting down to clear the way for a bigger tenant in the building.

"I say my philosophy, the thing happens because it has to happen," he said. "You can do nothing, but I'm ready, I'm ready."

Castillo came from Cuba in 1958. He opened his first shop in the '60s and moved to Ninth Avenue in 1995. It's a trip back in time with its photos of Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and Castillo himself with friends and customers from over the years.

One of those customers is Angel Delgado, who isn't quite sure what he will do for hair cuts after thirty five years in Castillo's barber chair.

"We'll have to try and see where we can go that's as good as he is," Delgado said through an interpreter.

The impending closure has Castillo's business partner, William Mercado, wondering about his future as well. He's not ready to retire just yet.

"This is like a family," he said. "Believe me, it's very, very sad. This hurts, because too many years, too many memories here."

Castillo says he is not bitter but he can't help but be a little upset about the changing of a neighborhood he has either lived or worked in for 52 years.

"I blame the landlord but I blame the politicians too, because they no try to do something to protect small business," he said. "They want to convert Manhattan into Monaco, rich and famous. In five more years, no working people can live in this neighborhood. In five more, maybe less."

As for retirement, Castillo doesn't have a solid plan yet.

"Maybe I learn now the computer, you know, keep busy my mind," he said.

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