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Beloved Fair Lawn Barber Breaks Boundaries

Irit Lerner of Fair Lawn with client and Saddle Brook native Mike Abedinoski, who first found his barber in Hawthorne.
Irit Lerner of Fair Lawn with client and Saddle Brook native Mike Abedinoski, who first found his barber in Hawthorne. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

FAIR LAWN, N.J. — All Irit Lerner of Fair Lawn asks for is a chance.

A chance to prove that she can fade. She can cut. She can shave.

And she can do it just as good as the guys.

"When people come to the door they see a female and they say. 'Uh oh,'" said Lerner in her Israeli accent.

"I say: 'Try me. I won't even charge you.'

"I have to prove myself a little bit more than men but once they give me a chance, it's no different."

Lerner, 42, celebrated her third year at her River Road shop on Sunday, where she has a loyal following of clientele and a steady stream of business.

The single mom first began cutting hair back home in Israel when she was a teenager and made a career of it at 19 when she moved to the U.S., 22 years ago.

"I have to prove myself a little bit more than men but once they give me a chance, it's no different."

But before she could get her license here, Lerner would need 1200 hours of experience. She says a mentor in Hawthorne helped her get on her feet, before she took to barbershops in Harlem and The Bronx to perfect her craft.

"I was boring just with scissors," Lerner said. "I wanted to learn fades and shape-ups."

Once she was licensed, Lerner began cutting at River Road Barber Shop down the street. After six years, she decided to open a business of her own.

She had two weeks before she could move in and, despite a growing baby bump, continued taking clients in the basement of her home.

"I have patience for this," she said. "I don't get tired of it."

Her fades and shaves have earned her a following of police officers and firefighters, who need cut-outs every couple of weeks.

"I enjoy being around men," the single mom said. "They're not picky. They're easy. They're loyal."

It's not unusual for a client to ask Lerner on a date.

But Lerner keeps things professional.

"I see them like dolls," she said. "They're not handsome or sexy.

"I have a job to do."

IRIT BARBERSHOP IS LOCATED AT 13-32B RIVER ROAD.

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