Born in Cervenera, Naples, in 1937, Niro, a resident of Middle Village for 50 years, immigrated to the United States with his older sister at the age of 17, just two years after his widowed mother remarried an Italian-American barber and father of ten. It was there, under the roof of his new home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where Niro would meet 16-year-old Antoinette Marciano, his future wife.
Marciano, an identical twin, was his stepsister.
“I was a kid — she was maybe 19 or 20 years old — but I wanted a family,” said Niro.
With the blessings of his stepfather, his mother, and a local priest, Niro’s client at the barbershop in Williamsburg where he was employed, Marciano and Niro began dating.
Two years later, the young couple was married inside a Catholic church.
Today, Niro and his 69-year-old wife, who have been married for over 50 years, have three daughters, one grandson, and two granddaughters. One of his daughters, a single mother who resides in Douglaston, is also a hairdresser who trained under Niro for 20 years.
Niro, who was named the 2008 Stylist of the Year by American Salon, a magazine for professional hairdressers and beauty salon owners, recently closed his unisex hair salon, which he owned for 32 years.
Besides serving the local community in Maspeth, the salon, Niro’s Hair Replacement, was also the training ground for 14 aspiring hairdressers throughout the years. Like many storeowners, the troubling economic times, which Niro attributes to his salon’s closure, has impacted him immensely.
“Tax went up, water went up — you can’t survive because everything is too expensive,” said Niro.
But while his salon is his “second dream,” Niro isn’t quire ready to retire. He currently operates his business within two rooms inside Tranquility Hair Spa, another hair salon in Maspeth that belongs to his former student.
“I still want to work until God takes me,” he said. Niro, whose salon focuses primarily on customers struggling with hair loss, particularly cancer patients, remains positive despite the downsizing of his business.
Niro, who treats his customers like friends or even family, firmly believes that maintaining good relationships with customers is key to any business’ success. One of Niro’s repeat customers, who he refers to as “Wally,” is also 72.
For 50 years, Wally, a resident of Williamsburg, has been Niro’s loyal customer, despite Niro’s move to Queens over 30 years ago.
“Frank Sinatra has a song, ‘My Way.’ This is my way,” he said.