For Raymond LaGala, owner of Hairport in the Village of Port Jefferson, cutting people’s hair is a feel-good business. Great service and treating his clients right — that is what he said has been bringing people back for the last 45 years.
“You have to love what you do,” he said. “I’m glad that I still enjoy it.”
LaGala said he had the idea of one day opening his own shop since he first became a hairdresser. He learned the craft working at shops in Merrick and Great Neck, and in 1973, he decided to try opening his own business.
The longtime stylist and barber had visited Port Jeff before and thought it would be a good place for his salon. In June 1974, Hairport was born and has resided in the same spot on Main Street since.
The Port Jeff business owner said his shop was one of the first unisex salons in the area at the time.
“As we got busier, we kept expanding,” LaGala said.
They then expanded into barbering and along the way his children became involved in the family business.
One of his sons, Thomas LaGala, began barbering at the salon when he was 17 years old, and was followed by his brother Jason, who said he wanted to learn hairdressing so his father sent him to a school in the city.
From there, the two sons and a nephew of Raymond, James, began barbering in the back of the salon and it proved to be successful.
Jason said he remembers coming into the salon when he was a kid and he would watch his father cut clients’ hair. The young man thought it seemed like a fun place to work.
“For me it was a cool time growing up, working for my dad,” Jason said. “He taught me to always take care of the customer.”
Throughout the years, two other children, David and Joann, joined the business. Thomas and Jason, after working at Hairport for some time, decided to open their own business across the street after some encouragement from their father. The pair now run the Men’s Room Barbershop on Main Street in Port Jeff.
“Running a business is not always easy. It is an uphill battle,” Raymond said. “You have to be able to adjust — it is forever changing.”
The father of seven stressed the importance of not assuming customers will come back just because you are around.
“You can’t take them for granted. If you treat them right they will be back,” he said.
Over the years, the salon has built up a loyal client base who appreciate the service and honesty. Raymond mentioned it is all about the relationships you cultivate with your customers.
Jason said he is proud that the family-run business is still striving.
“It is cool to have a successful business grow with the area it’s been in,” he said. “It has become a staple of the village.”
Jason said it has been nice watching a family man, in his father, take care of his family.
Raymond said the key to success is that you can’t rest on what you did in the past; you have to keep going forward
“We are still here, making noise,” he said.