Wakefield Barbershop Helps People Struggling With Addiction

Over The Top Barbershop in Wakefield, Massachusetts, is where you go to get the best fade or a fresh lineup.

"I still have customers back in Springfield that drive an hour, two hours, to come and see me," said co-owner Luke Noreen.

Noreen and his partner, Rocco Danieli, created a certain vibe in their barbershop. It's filled with lively conversation, hip music and laughs from each chair. Throughout the day, there are people waiting on their leather couch to get touched up.

Their graffiti walls mixed with their personal style is enticing. Both are covered in tattoos and interesting piercings, and wear flashy gold chains.

"That's why we are over the top, we are over the top for a reason," said Danieli.

Their success is apparent from all the clients walking in and out of their doors, and Danieli even has his own hair product line called Uplifted. He wore a T-shirt that sported the brand.

However, there's one chair that’s empty. In the chair is a picture of a man named Dean, and clippers sitting next to it. That;s where this story begins. It was the first hint that this barbershop is unique.

"I just lost a good friend who was working here. His name was Dean and Dean had a long struggle — and he didn't make it," said Noreen.

Dean was a barber at the shop before he passed away from an overdose three weeks ago. In the back, Dean's father was in the shop getting support. He was teary eyed, but smiling hearing all the nice things the men inside had to say about his son.

Noreen's and Danieli's mirrors are decorated like so many hairstylists and barbers throughout the country. There's something distinctly different about their mirrors, though. They are decorated with the pictures of dozens who have lost the battle to addiction.

“With the epidemic it is crazy out here I got I don’t know how many. This is happening all around us," said Danieli.

Danieli knows all too well the battle with addiction. He is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for over three years now. An Alcoholics Anonymous book and rosary beads hang from his shelf next to his chair. More than that, he had two sisters that passed away from opioid addiction. His brother, also a recovering addict, was at the shop supporting him when NBC10 Boston came to interview him.

"To see my mother burying a child, no parent should have to bury a child," said Danieli.

Danieli said his battle to get clean has been a long one. Now, he prays, meditates, takes care of himself and tries to help others.

"You got to go through rock bottom, you have to hit your lowest point," he said. "My lowest point was sitting in a hospital bed and lying to their faces telling them that I was sober in that car accident."

Noreen's journey started when he was a teenager.

"I started smoking crack when I was 15 and a half, 16 years old," he said. "I moved on to perks, heroin, alcohol, and benzos. I took it to an end and I tried to hang myself, and my mother took me down. I remember that very clearly."

Now, both are sober and have been running a successful business for quite some time. They even hire people who are struggling, and welcome any addicts inside.

"We are always looking out for one another. We know everyone by their first name. We know their families. We know what their cousin is going through. We are making phone calls trying to get their friends their family member into a detox into a rehab," said Noreen.

Danieli said he's seen clients come into the shop high, even nodding off in his chair.

"We keep Narcan in our stations — we have to, this is the world we live in," said Danieli.

Noreen explained that the barber industry is rife with addiction.

"It's a cash business. It can be a dirty business. There's not too many rules. You show up to work. You cut hair. You got your own clientele. Just be respectful don't be high — those are two rules, and a lot of people can't follow them," said Noreen.

Noreen said they spend a lot of time babysitting — but they wouldn't have it any other way.

"I was given a second chance, and I am not going to waste it. I want to help others," said Danieli.

Danieli and Noreen have a vision: a public space where people can talk about the epidemic without judgement. They plan on having AA meetings, lists of detox centers, and most importantly support for whoever needs it.

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