Banter Barbershop Continues Heritage of Hair

Tuesday March 28, 2023

NEWBURYPORT – The barber shop has long been a gathering place for men to get a trim and a shave, but even more to see old friends, make new ones, catch up on the latest, and above all, talk.
Banter Barber and Clothier, as the name suggests, embraces that tradition on State Street here and takes it several steps further.
“We yuk it up a lot,” said Eric Eramo, the affable young owner.
Eramo, having learned from his mother, Ginny Eramo, owner of the highly successful INTERLOCKS Salon on Merrimac Street, and father, Tom Eramo, who owned Visions, a beauty products supply distribution company, for almost three decades, said he was inspired to open the shop and continue the family tradition by his great grandfather, Maddie Stuto.
Stuto immigrated from Sicily to South Boston at age 15 in the 1920s. He trained as a barber and opened his own shop, where he met his wife, Ruth McCormack, who came in for a trim. Unhappy with the cut — or so the family legend goes — she returned to the shop for a redo and that second encounter kindled their romance.
Maddie’s photo, working in his South Boston shop, graces the back wall of his great grandson’s four-chair shop. Stuto’s portrait is also incorporated in the logo Eric had designed for Banter.
Banter took over the space on State Street, next to the Screening Room and Port Tavern, that was occupied for years by the popular antique shop, Flukes and Finds. It was not the first barbershop to rent the space. When the previous shop failed, Banter moved in at the end of July 2021 during the Pandemic.
In the last year, Banter at 80 State St. has more than doubled its business. On Friday late morning, all four chairs were filled, and there was a steady stream of customers, some dropping in for a chat, others for a trim and shave.
Banter is more than a barbershop. It is also a men’s clothing store. Currently, as father Tom points out, the shop is selling golf shirts. “We have a lot of golfers” as clients, he said.
The atmosphere is that of a traditional gentlemen’s club. The barber chairs are in the back of the shop. In front is comfortable furniture, plus a pool table, other games, hair products and racks of clothing.
It may have been inevitable that Eric would join the family beauty and grooming business. Mother Ginny began learning cosmetology at 15 at the Medfield Vocational School. By 17, she was working full time.
In 1988, she opened INTERLOCKS – a name she liked because it was near the Merrimack River. The salon is consistently recognized for its excellence by Northshore Magazine, Boston Magazine and has been a 22-time winner of the Salon Today’s Top 200 Award.
She launched INTERLOCKS MedSpa + Wellness in 2017 to offer clinical services that reverse the signs of aging.
For seven years Eric pursued a career in the golf industry in Florida and Massachusetts. But soon he returned to his roots in Newburyport, in part because he missed Carlie Schena, a high school sweetheart, who is an INTERLOCKS buyer and daughter of Mindi Schena, owns the boutique salon, Mindi’s Midtown. Eric and Carlie plan to marry in July.
He began learning the beauty business as mother’s retail manager, helping INTERLOCKS source and market products. That part of Ginny’s business has grown to $1 million a year in sales.
The family heritage of hair and beauty in the city is extensive. Eric’s sister, Jordan Becker, now heads INTERLOCKS as the salon’s chief visionary, the equivalent of its CEO.
Tom, who has a gift for banter, comes to work daily at the shop, complaining that he can’t keep up with his son, who “pays me too well.”

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