“I was born to be a barber,” says Done Katsorov, better known as “Danny the Barber.”
Danny has been a fixture in Galt for over 30 years. Photographs cover the walls and ceiling of his shop and he has a story for each. Well-used chairs line the edge of the room. It seems that waiting for the haircut is as much a part of the experience as having the haircut. His shop is a shrine to friends, family, and patrons who come for a clip and the ever important barbershop-banter. The place is as timeless as Danny himself.
Quick with a smile and open to any conversation, Danny says that life has been one surprise and miracle after another. “They are unexpected in the most crucial times of life,” he says.
He should know. Danny arrived in Hamilton from Macedonia in 1956. After a timing error and other complications, Danny was finally on a flight to Canada. When he arrived, he was told that the flight he had missed never made it.
His career as a barber began in Macedonia. Unable to afford the cost for high school, he took a job as a sculptor in a factory. From there, he found an opening with a local barber sweeping and cleaning the floors. There, he studied the art.
“I’m still a sculptor,” says Danny with a grin. “When you get someone in the chair and cut his hair, that’s a sculpture!”
Among the miracles that Danny recounts is landing his first job in Canada. Needing a haircut to continue looking for work, Danny walked into a barbershop. He and the barber exchanged cuts on each other free of charge. When a customer came in, Danny “like a zombie” began trimming his hair. He was hired.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re working,” he says. “Step one – feel good about yourself.”
Danny gives back for the miracles he has received. “Charity is sunshine. Everyone needs sunshine. The sun rises for everyone…”
He credits his father for giving him the example of charitable living. “If someone was in need of food, he would take a loaf of bread to them and say that we have flour to make bread for the next morning. They need it now.” His father passed away when Danny was a young boy, but he took his father’s wisdom to heart.
Danny has donated the proceeds from countless Clip-A-Thons and other fundraisers to the Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Cambridge Self Help Food Bank, Salvation Army, and many other agencies and groups in the community. He is credited with helping to establish the Grand River Film Festival and the Macedonian Club, both based out of Cambridge.
For Danny, seeing Cambridge in 1957 was love at first sight. It wasn’t until 1980 that he was able to open his first barbershop on Water Street and eventually move to his now famous shop on Ainslie Street.
“Mama mia! Here I am where I belong.”
Another love at first sight, and another miracle, is his wife, Niki. He saw her across a dance floor during a wedding they attended in Macedonia. “I said to my friend, ‘I’d like that girl to be my wife.’” It would be one full year before he was graced with her first kiss. “She is a loving and compassionate girl to put up with me.”
With three sons, two daughters and 14 grandchildren, Danny says that he has been blessed.
The surprises and excitement never stop. From winning the Bernice Adams Award for Literary Art in 2006, to opening the ceremonies for The R.C.M.P. Musical Ride, he has also been honoured with the Queen’s Jubilee Award in 2002 for his outstanding contribution to the community of Cambridge and won the International Poet Society Editors Choice Award for his poem entitled “Love”.
“But what’s the story of life? You never regret if you help somebody,” says Danny.
To help many youngsters get a head-start on a job interview, Danny will lend his scissors to the cause by tiding up their hair even if they can’t afford to pay.
“If somebody asked me ‘what’s my concern?’, my concern is for the youth,” he says. “You can’t build a future on a six month contract.” Danny would like to see stability and opportunity for newcomers to the working world.
As we walk along Ainslie back to his barbershop, I notice that he is greeted by just about everyone who passes. Some point to their hair with a smile. But, Danny the Barber does more than cut hair. His passionate and outspoken loyalty to both his heritage and his community cuts through the the tangles. The man speaks from the heart and wears that on his sleeve.
“It doesn’t matter how much you give. It’s how much of your heart you are willing to share,” Danny says. “It comes back in many ways.”Tags: Ainslie Street, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Cambridge Self Help Food Bank, Done Katsorov, family, friends, Galt, International Poet Society Editors Choice Award, living, Musical Ride, Queen Jubilee Award, Salvation Army, Water Street, work, young