WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Haircuts ended with hugs Friday afternoon, as Westborough prepared to say the final goodbyes to its beloved barber, Phil Evangelous, a day before he switched off his razor for good after 46 years.
"It absolutely hasn't sunken in yet," said Evangelous, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Sept. 25 and still uses his humor to entertain his customers. "Everybody that's coming in here now are really all good friends of mine. They're basically coming in for their last goodbye and their last bad haircut."
Evangelous said it's been that way since news broke of his retirement earlier this month, an announcement he intended to keep small. Customers have been writing messages into a journal at his shop at 3 West Main St., but he said he won't look at it until he settles into his home on Cape Cod.
"It's going to be tough, but it'll go by fast, this day has gone by so fast," he said, joking that he considered camping out in a sleeping bag. "I'm thrilled that people feel the way they do. A lot of the people here probably don't even need a haircut, but they've come back for one last trim."
The board that once held more than 500 pictures of customers has been picked bare. The Green Monster painting behind his lone barber chair is going to a young customer and messages of "don't go" are now scrawled across the walls.
Tom Lawton, a senior at Westborough High School, stood by and chatted with Evangelous on his final Friday — with no intention of getting a haircut.
"It's gonna be weird not having Phil here," said Lawton, who got his first haircut from Evangelous when he was 3.
The wait was approaching two hours for some, but Ian Parsons said he didn't mind. Now a senior at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Parsons said the time spent at Phil's was always more about enjoyment than any haircut.
"Now I'm going to have to cut my own hair, and talk to myself for about two-and-half hours beforehand," Parsons said. "It's a bit depressing, it's the end of an era."
Evangelous said what he's going to miss most is "the interaction." With video game consoles, trading cards and toys lining his small space, the genial barber said he always tried to focus on the kids. Many of Evengelous' customers have never had a haircut from anyone else.
Susan Keller has been bringing her children, John, Grace and Patrick, to Phil's for more than 10 years.
"I'm going to miss it," said John, now 13. "It's like a show and a haircut."
A party on Sunday at the Westborough House of Pizza will be the final event for Evangelous before he bids farewell to Westborough. While not sure how he's going to fill the time, Evangelous said he intends to start his own home-maintenance business, and has come to terms with hanging up the razor.
"It's been a good, long run," he said. "But it's time."