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Updated: November 28, 2022 Shop Talk

Q&A: The legacy of Sena's Barbershop

Photo | Kevin Koczwara Brenda Tomasetta, owner of Sena's Barbershop in Worcester.

Sena’s Barbershop is a family affair, and Brenda Tomasetta is continuing its legacy.

Tomasetta’s father, Peter Sena, opened Sena’s Barbershop on Grafton Hill in Worcester in 1953. He started cutting hair at the same location in 1951 when Ralph Mitchell owned the shop. When Mitchell decided he wanted to move his shop to Lincoln Street, Sena chose to stay and take over. He made his life there. His younger brothers became barbers and took turns cutting hair at Sena’s. In 1979, Tomasetta became his partner. At the time, Sena started a job working full-time for the Massachusetts Public Retirement Systems and was thinking of closing the shop for good, if Tomasetta hadn’t taken over the business.

Sena worked until he was 85. He passed away in November 2021, a few months after his wife of 65 years passed away and two years after he had to stop cutting hair. Tomasetta closed the Grafton Hill shop, but she has now moved and joined forces with Kelly Collins at her barbershop, Studio C Hair Artistry, on Massasoit Road in Worcester. Tomasetta brought the Sena name with her.

Why did you decide you wanted to work with your dad?

Well, he started working for the state, and he was going to probably close the shop, so I went in and he was able to continue.

Did you go in for him or for you?

At the time, it was a little bit of both.

Why did you want to be a hairdresser?

I don't know. It was in the blood because my dad and his three brothers went to barber school, and his sister was a hairdresser. Back then, my dad had a choice: He could have went to Lincoln Plaza or stayed on Grafton Hill, and he stayed and opened up the shop. Then he had brothers that worked for him, John and Jimmy, who moved to California.

What made the shop special?

The relationships with the people, the clients, the customers. That's really it.

When I first went in, I remember thinking it was more a family. It wasn't barber-customer. My dad knew everybody's name. He knew everything about everybody. The relationships were strong, and I remember thinking, “Wow.” I was so blown away, but I fell into it. I felt the same way. I don't look at my job as a job.

And it became a political place, a place where politicians of all sorts would meet and talk.

It was always political, but my dad was political. He was into politics. I followed suit with that.

Why did you keep the name of the shop the same after you bought it?

When I first started, he said to me, “You can name this barbershop anything you want.” And I would never change the name. I know it made him happy, but he didn’t want me to feel like it had to remain Sena’s Barbershop. But why would I change it? I never would. When I moved to Massasoit Road, I took the name with me.

I am proud of that name. It’s a family name, but it’s also a business that he built on his own, with obviously with his brothers too.

How much longer are you going to cut hair? Are you going to be like your dad and cut hair forever?

That's the plan. I don't know. Moving up to Massasoit Road has given me a little bit of a different life. It is closer to home. Kelly Collins, who owns the place, joined forces with me. It’s good. I would have considered retiring if I had not made this move.

I am more like my dad; I didn't realize that. Maybe I will be here at 85 years old. Let's face it, God had to tell him it was time to stop. How many people can say that worked until 85? Not many.

I'm probably more like my dad than I realized. I don't think you realize that until the end. I remember one day, I was going to a Red Sox game, and I had to leave work. I ended up having to turn customers away, and I said, “I shouldn’t be going to this game.” My mom then said, “Oh my goodness, don't turn into your father.” Because business always came first. I looked at her and said, “Oh my God, it’s too late.”

I don't think it felt like a business to him.

No, I don't feel like it is business either. But when she said it, the light bulb went off. I realized it’s too late because I run it the same way. I do the same thing.

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December 3, 2022
Congratulations Brenda!!! Your Dad is smiling down on you for sure!!! He’d be so proud! Your Mum too!
November 28, 2022

I have only fond memories of both Brenda and her father. Glad to hear the neighborhood staple will continue on even if in a different location. Lot's of happy patrons!

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