A beloved member of Kingston’s Greek community, and one of the city’s most popular barbers, has died.
Dino Bartzis, the owner of Dino’s Barber Shop at 316 Princess St., died Sunday at Kingston Health Sciences Centre from COVID-19.
Bartzis last worked in the shop in April, prior to the latest provincial lockdown.
Now his area next to the window of the shop is vacant, with his barber chair pulled over to the side.
Photos of Bartzis and his customers cover parts of his barber mirror and adjoining wall.
Pat Amaral is one of the three “girls” who cut hair at Dino’s and who will run the shop now on behalf of the family.
“That was his wish,” she said. “That was what he wanted. In the end, it’s for the customers.
“Dino was well known, and it’s good for them to come in and we’re staying open.”
Amaral said that since the news of Bartzis’ death came out, many customers have come to the shop telling stories about him.
“That has helped us girls recover a little quicker,” she said. “Monday was rough for me and the other girl that was here, but every day it’s getting better.”
Amaral has known Bartzis for 23 years and worked with him for 18.
“He’s been a great boss, the way he treats us girls,” she said. “He would buy us coffee every day because he felt like that little gesture would keep us happy.
“He just loved us. He was a great guy and he treated us like we were part of his family.”
Regular customers would frequently hear friendly banter between Bartzis and Amaral, whose barber chair was to his right.
“I’ve always worked beside Dino, and I’ve always said it takes a certain person to be able to work beside him and put up with him,” she said. “We’ve always had a lot of fun.
“A lot of customers, too, that knew him and I, and even students that came in, knew how much fun we had in here. We joked, we laughed and all of that, and that was one of the reasons customers kept coming because they had some much fun coming here. He did joke with everybody and say hi to everybody.
“People know (that when) you go to Dino’s, you’ll get treated like family. Whether you were a customer for 40 years or a first-year student, he treated everybody the same, regardless.”
Bartzis became a barber in his native Greece when he was 14 and worked as a barber in Kingston for 52 years. He owned Dino’s for the past 25 years.
“He’s made me a stronger person because of the type of boss he was,” Amaral said. “He’s worked for other people, and it’s like he learned what kind of boss he would want to be, and he’s shown that to us that he would only have respect for us and give us the world.
“He made us want to come to work.”
At the time of his death, Bartzis was 75. He worked that long to stay connected with his regular clientele.
“His customers would come in, but they spent time socializing. He’d cut their hair, but it was just catching up. He came in for them. Of course, he could have retired, but it’s the socializing part he couldn’t give up, and he really enjoyed it. It was definitely his highlight,” Amaral said.
“My dad was a staple in the community. He was a man of the downtown,” his son Tony said in an interview.
He liked to visit with all the other downtown businesses close by.
“He loved his neighbours up the street, down the street and across the street, and he would always want to see everyone else succeed,” Tony said.
Tony said the gift of gab was his father’s best asset.
“My dad knew from a young age, knew if you are nice (that) you befriend people and you’re a talker. That is the recipe for success because people will gravitate to you,” he said. “He kept that until the day he died. Everybody knew my dad.”
Bartzis last gave haircuts in the spring prior to the latest provincial COVID-19 lockdown. Since the shop reopened last week, it has been busy, with lineups of up to a dozen people waiting outside.
Tony said his father took ill on June 22 with shortness of breath and was admitted to Kingston General Hospital. After being released from the hospital, he fell ill again on Saturday and was readmitted. He died on Sunday surrounded by his family.
Tony said his father had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on April 8 and was waiting to take his second dose. He said he doesn’t know how his father caught the virus.
“In my dad’s position, he talks to hundreds of people a day,” he said. “It’s the horrors of the pandemic. You get it and some people are OK, but for some people that are vaccinated it didn’t work.”
Tony said his father gave lollipops to children after they got their hair cut.
“If you keep your customers close, they’ll take care of you, just like you’re taking care of them,” he said. “He said to us, ‘Always treat people like you would treat your own family members because we’re all brothers and sisters, so we need to care.’”
Tony said Dino was well respected and felt the affection of the community.
“What do I think he is to the community? How can it get any bigger when everyone knows and loves you,” Tony said.
“Tell everybody thank you” was the last thing he told Tony before he died.
Bartzis leaves behind his wife, Anna, sons Tony and Georgios and their spouses, Tenay and Melissa, respectively, and two grandchildren.
There will be a walk-by in honour of Bartzis at the Greek Orthodox Church at 121 Johnson St. on Friday between 9 a.m. and noon, with all COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
The barbershop will be closed Friday morning.
After the service, the hearse carrying Bartzis will drive down Princess Street and past the barbershop between 12:30 and 1 p.m.