Nanticoke barber, 100, won’t retire after all

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First Posted: 1/6/2015

Barber Zelino “Zel” Vici is 100 years old and still going strong.

He’s decided that he’s going to continue working into 2015.

As his 100th birthday approached, last year, Vici said he had plans to retire at the end of 2014.

But, he changed his mind.

“What would I do if I retired,” Vici said while tending to a customer at his shop at South Prospect and Church streets.

“What would I do, sit on the couch all day?”

Vici said he would rather get up early, have a little breakfast and then walk down the steps to his shop, turn on the lights, open the doors and wait for customers.

“It’s what I do,” Vici said of the job he’s been doing since 1935. “I can’t do anything else. So as long as my health is good, I’ll stay open.”

Vici said his health is good, but he admits he can no longer go for long walks because his back tightens up. He said he only drives during daylight hours.

“I only go to the grocery store, the drug store, the doctor’s office and to church,” Vici said.

Frank Waitkus of Mountain Top has been a customer of Vici’s for five years. He became a customer when his 86-year-old barber retired.

“I like the old masters,” Waitkus said. “There’s no one like Zel.”

Vici still plays Frank Sinatra while he works and he enjoys Tony Bennett and Dean Martin. The old masters stick together.

“I kind of figured he would stay open,” Waitkus said. “Zel is a regional treasure.”

Vici talked about visiting his grandson in Delaware over the Christmas holiday. He bragged about his 3-year-old great-grandson who is learning to play the violin.

Vici has a son and a daughter, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Bryan Fullerton of Nanticoke has been getting his hair cuts at Vici’s for nearly 30 years.

“I’m glad he’s not retiring,” Fullerton said. “It’s hard to find a good barber.”

As Vici meticulously cut Fullerton’s hair, you could see his concentration. With scissors and a comb in hand, Vici can still transform overgrown mop tops into well-groomed styles ready for a job interview, a church service or a big date.

“He always does a good job,” Fullerton said. “If he didn’t do a good job, I wouldn’t keep coming back.”

So the the light will stay on at the little barber shop on the corner. Vici will be open at 6 a.m. and close at noon.

Vici said doctors gave him a pacemaker years ago to keep his heart beating. He said diabetes causes him to take insulin. But nothing slows him down.

As he swept up after a couple of customers left, you could see the smile on his face.

It’s been a long journey since he started as a lather boy for Dick Ginger around 1930 at a barber shop at West Green and Maple streets, where Vici learned his trade.

When Vici opened his shop in 1935, there were 32 barber shops in Nanticoke — now there are three.

When he closes the shop at noon, Vici has some lunch and he reads a lot. He said he sometimes takes a nap and “fools around” on the computer before going to bed around 9 p.m. He uses Skype to keep in touch with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I enjoy my job,” he said. “You have to stay active.”

Then Zelino Vici, who turned 100 on May 28th, sat down for a moment and waited for his next customer.