Three generations later, Cerruti’s still a family-owned salon

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Ann Richardson / Pam Rumer works on one of her loyal customers, Fran Letko, at Cerruti’s. Ann Richardson / Pam Rumer works on one of her loyal customers, Fran Letko, at Cerruti’s.

OCEAN CITY — With the exception of the week she and her husband, George, spent cleaning up and repairing her West Avenue hair salon after Hurricane Sandy dumped nearly a foot of water inside Cerruti’s, Pam Rumer said she has never had a bad day at work.

“I love it,” she said, adding that it’s a caring, sharing, friendly place where women come to chat while she and the other stylists, Cindy and Vicky, enhance their appearance. Over curlers and a blow dryer, clients become friends and part of the Cerruti’s extended family, Rumer said.

“I’m a people person, so it’s a nice job to have,” Rumer said. “I love the people. They come in, we do their hair and they leave feeling great because they look great.”

It’s a process that’s gone on for generations. Since 1930, members of the Cerruti family have been styling hair in the shop founded by George Rumer’s grandfather, Peter Cerruti.

This is Pam Rumer’s 38th year, she and George took over in 1980, but she had been working in the shop long before that.

“I always loved the atmosphere,” Rumer said.

Born in 1888 in southern Italy, Peter Cerruti taught himself English and, having mastered that, taught himself how to cut hair. He moved to America. Married with four children, he opened a barber shop at 711 Asbury Ave. in 1920.

The barber shop did very well, Rumer said, so the enterprising Cerruti decided to expand to include women’s hairdressing. He placed a partition in the back of the store and invited the women in, but it didn’t go over very well with the men.

“The men didn’t like the women coming in their barber shop,” Rumer said.

So Cerruti sold the barber shop and opened a hair salon for women at 703 Asbury Ave. in 1930. Along the way, Rumer said Cerruti, whom her family called “Pop,” became a master hair cutter, an artist who worked from dawn to dusk. His wife was the first woman in Ocean City to boast a short hair cut, she noted.

“We used to say he was the Vidal Sassoon of his day,” she said.

He was also an astute businessman who sold the late David Gillian the property which eventually became the original Gillian’s Fun Deck, now a water park at Plymouth Place.

“He was very easy going,” she said, a kind man who would always give people the benefit of the doubt.

In 1933, Cerruti’s twin daughters, Terrie Rumer, George’s mother, and Betty Lavis joined their father in the family business.

Years ago, Rumer said stylists did not need to be licensed. Someone named Mrs. Fowler taught Cerruti how to style hair, and Cerruti and the other stylists taught his twin daughters. In 1957, the twins took over for their father and built a new shop in the 1000 block of West Avenue, where it remains today.

Times were different, Rumer said, much more formal. Stylists, then called operators, wore crisp white uniforms that had to be starched, and white, sturdy shoes. Men operators wore a shirt and tie, and sometimes a jacket. The white uniforms eventually gave way to three-quarter length smocks.

Today, Cerruti’s is a far less formal atmosphere.

“It’s comfortable, that’s what people like about it,” Rumer said.

After working for 46 years, the twins sold the business to Pam and George in 1980.

“I started working at the desk in 1972, after Michael went to first grade,” Rumer said, adding that her mother-in-law and Aunt Betty sent her to beauty school, so she could take over the shop.

“I had been working for a while, I knew everything from watching others, but it was a good experience to go to school,” Rumer said.

The Rumers have two grown children, Lisa, who heads the city's recreation program, and Michael, a local building contractor.

Rumer grew up in Sea Isle City. Formerly Pam Bruhn, she met George Rumer at Ocean City High School. Her grandfather came from Italy just like her husband’s grandfather. Both come from large families.

“We have a lot of relatives,” she said.

Both she and George graduated OCHS in 1966 and married soon after. George went to work for the city and, after retiring, earned his real estate license and went to work for Century 21 Real Estate.

Rumer said hair styles have changed over the years; bouffants are no longer in style, finger waves are out and no one uses an iron in her shop anymore. Back in the day, women came in for finger waves, they’d sit on the beach and let it dry, and then return later in the day and an operator would comb it out.

“They used to do the whole head with combs, pushing the hair in different ways,” she said.

Modern styles call for new techniques and new hair appliances, but a lot of her customers still prefer the old-fashioned weekly appointment to “get their hair done.”

At one time, Peter Cerruti operated three beauty shops: one on the boardwalk that featured rides for children, a shop in Somers Point and the Asbury Avenue shop where it all began.

Joined by the fourth generation of the Cerruti family, Pam and George’s daughter-in-law Cindy Rumer, who is married to their son Michael, Pam Rumer said she is happy with one shop and one daughter-in-law.

“I worked for my mother-in-law and we got along great, and now I have my son’s wife working for me, her mother-in-law, and we get along great,” she said. “Life is good. We’re still going strong.”

Rumer said she is supported by a very loyal clientele, generations of the faithful.

Her most devoted client, she said, is Joyce Bakely Trofa, a steadfast friend who permitted Rumer to cut her hair when she was still in beauty school and has returned ever since.

“I call that loyal,” she said. “She was my first customer more than 38 years ago and she’s still with me!”

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