I’m stopping by Wayne’s Barber Shop in the aftermath of a Ricky Martin concert last evening, attended by Wayne Richard and company. Euphoric from a night of music, dance and entertainment, Richard is flipping through pictures on his phone, showing me the sweaty and half frocked impressario in action.
Leading me to the break room where we can chat, Richard calls out to his employee Beth Hunsicker, “I’ll be out in a minute. She just wants to know how I met Ricky. We’re finally coming out!”
I’ve met Richard many times over the years, and almost every local guy I know has employed Richard one time or another for a haircut. Just mention his name to one of his clients and I guarantee you an extended grin. Richard is infectious, fantastic and perhaps the savviest peacock in town.
Wayne’s Barber Shop, once called John’s, was started by his grandfather 60 years ago. Wayne Richard had no idea John’s was his future. He only knew that to find his own well-lit corner in life, his departure from Groton was imminent.
The area now, filled with supportive family and friends, gives Richard a sense of balance. He says, “I have a lot of support in the community, but earlier on when I knew I was gay, my grandfather was a prominent businessman in the area and I felt there was no way I could stay around here because he knew so many people.”
Richard grew up in Groton and graduated from Fitch High School in 1987. He attended the University of Connecticut for three years and majored in business, until he realized academic life was not his calling.
He traveled for 10 years, which took him to Texas, California, Chicago, Florida and Manhattan. Eventually, he befriended a posse of hair stylists who encouraged him to get into the industry. The idea took hold and Richard returned home to receive his barber’s license with the help of his grandfather, who Richard describes as the patriarch.
His intent was to return out West, but Richard's Grandfather held him to work detail at John's to repay the debt, and as a result Richard grew into a good life here and never left.
His grandfather has been his role model and provider, but it’s been the women in his family to furnish unconditional love and support. Mom even came along to the Ricky Martin Concert and was sorry to tell Richard that in all honesty, Ricky was a little cuter.
Over the years the business has done well, and I would suspect largely because of Richard and his staff, all of whom he refers to as family. The shop banter on a good day is purported to be more entertaining than a Broadway musical. Richard is wildly authentic and in doing so gives those around him permission to do the same; He’s well-loved and cherished as a result.
“When I saw Ricky, his sexuality was in the show and that’s part of who we are. It can open people up and it’s becomes part of a conversation,” Richard said.
“I accept and make fun of my flaws, but I’m good at what I do, and I’m comfortable with who I am. I just feel like I don’t want any more or any less...I just want the same as everybody else.”