For Shane Bruno, owner of the Swagger and Blade hair salon in Asbury Park and Ocean Township, his interest in haircuts was no ordinary story.
Bruno started sweeping and mopping at his mother’s barbershop at a young age and became fascinated with the act of cutting hair. As a young boy, Bruno would sneak his friends into his mother’s barber shop and cut their hair without his knowledge.
“My mom owned and operated a hair salon in the town where I grew up,” Bruno said. “I would see how much she enjoyed cutting hair with an entrepreneurial spirit and also really enjoyed what she was doing going to work every day. I wanted to pursue that too.
“I didn’t know if I would end up becoming a barber or not,” Bruno said. “I started playing with her tools at a young age and while she thought I was sweeping and cleaning her living room, she had no idea I was experimenting on my friends all the time. I really enjoyed it that.”
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Bruno’s mother eventually found out, but to his surprise she was impressed and supported his aspirations to follow in his footsteps. Between 1994 and 1998, Bruno served in the military and was stationed at Fort Bragg, and he asked his mother to send him clippers, so he could cut the hair of his fellow soldiers.
“At that time, I was just putting money in my pocket, but I wasn’t chasing the dream of being a barber,” Bruno said. “Once I got out of the military, I pursued a bunch of different careers, but nothing seemed to stick. I couldn’t find a niche that I liked and, at the same time, my mother had cancer. We had an important conversation about what I wanted to do with my life before she died.
“I really couldn’t figure it out,” Bruno said. “She advised me to go after what made me happy and start cutting hair as a profession because she knew I loved doing it. A light bulb went out and I decided to do this that I loved. I knew I couldn’t keep bouncing from job to job like I had been for so long. It was in my face the whole time and I finally realized it.
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Pursue a career
Bruno enrolled at the Capri Hair Institute in Kenilworth and graduated in 2004.
“Most of the time, I considered haircuts a hobby,” Bruno said. “It was kind of like skateboarding, in the sense that it was a fun art form that was always evolving. I also didn’t know how much money there was in haircuts, but my mom m assured that the most important thing was to do what made you happy, and the money would follow.
“Finally I understood that cutting hair, for me, was never a question of money. The truth is that I have always loved the job and that is what allowed me to continue all these years.
“Some of the things over the years that I’ve come to love about this job include manual labor, interacting with people, and just generating a good conversation between customers and employees,” Bruno said. “There is so much to love about this job that I always look forward to going to work every day. The day goes by quickly and it becomes very rewarding as you make people feel good.
After graduating, Bruno started cutting hair professionally at various locations including Perth Amboy, Woodbridge and Old Bridge to name a few. He worked at a chain of barbershops in New Jersey and then cut hair in New York for a year.
“Working in the city was the boost I needed to come back to New Jersey and seriously consider opening my own hair salon,” Bruno said. “There was more of a high-end clientele and a more precise haircut. It was then that I realized that there was a market for this type of grooming service for men. There was so much untapped potential at that time. I really wanted to take advantage of it.
“I thought, let me go back to my roots because I’m a boy from Shore and that’s where I grew up,” Bruno said. “I met my wife now, who also cuts hair, and we moved to Asbury Park, which was slowly starting to come back, in terms of people shopping around Cookman Avenue and other places in that area.”
He opened his first hair salon Swagger and Blade in the Wanamassa section of Ocean Township. After a few years there, Bruno noticed an improvement in the businesses springing up around Asbury Park. Bruno found the space where it is now and opened in 2015.
“It was the perfect time because Asbury started to grow quickly right after we moved in,” Bruno said. “It was a great situation and we had a really amazing response from customers.”
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Old and new styles
Bruno’s customers love a variety of hairstyles. Different types of older styles are still making a comeback.
“Right now, a lot of customers are sporting a different version of the ‘gentleman cut’ from that era,” Bruno said. “It’s like fashion, in that history is constantly repeating itself. It’s about barbers putting a new spin on old classics.
In recent times, Bruno has navigated his business through the pandemic, which has particularly affected companies dedicated to personal appearance.
“People don’t go out as much, whether it’s to go to work or go out for a night on the town or just to do something that aims to pay attention to their appearance. People are staying home more and they’re slacking off a bit more to get their hair cut,” he said. “We’re super safe here now and we’re enforcing that safety by requiring masks, putting sanitizer at the door, and making sure all of our stations are every six feet apart as well. We generally do everything we can to ensure that everything is clean and sterilized for our customers and employees. »
Bruno wants to grow the business and keep everything moving.
“We want to continue to be successful in everything we do,” Bruno said. “We are enjoying every step with what we have achieved so far and are looking to continue giving our customers what they want. It’s about constantly growing the business as much as possible.
Swagger and Blade
Pitches: 1411 Wickapecko Drive, Ocean Township and 621 Lake Ave., Asbury Park
Call: 732-455-5730 (Ocean Township), 732-361-5400 (Asbury Park).
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday; 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday