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New State Law Brings Norwalk Barbers 'Out of The Shadows'

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) poses with Zack Lara, owner of Zack’s Barber Shop in Norwalk, during a press conference Tuesday.
State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) poses with Zack Lara, owner of Zack’s Barber Shop in Norwalk, during a press conference Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

NORWALK, Conn. — State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff stopped by a Norwalk barber shop Tuesday to celebrate a new state law that provides a pathway for aspiring barbers to become licensed through hands-on experience.

The law, which could have sweeping impacts for immigrants who were barbers in their home countries, allows a barber to earn a license through an apprenticeship program instead of a potentially costly barber school, Duff said.

Under the act, an approved apprenticeship could take the place of 1,000 hours of study at a barber school, which was previously required under state law.

Fabian Durango, president of the Greater Stamford Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, lauded the new law. He said it allows some barbers to “to come out of the shadows and step into the market.”

Duff (D-Norwalk/Darien), who co-sponsored the law, was inspired by Zack Lara, owner of Zack’s Barber Shop.

Lara said he came to the United States and opened a barber shop. He met with Duff over coffee at the Post Road Diner to encourage him to open doors for fellow immigrants.

Duff said the law would impact barbers in many communities across Connecticut.

“This is important for a number of communities — not just Norwalk,” Duff said. He was joined by state Rep.Robert Sanchez, who represents New Britain in the 25th District, and NAACP Norwalk Branch President Darnell D. Crosland.

Crosland said the law would positively impact barbers of all races and nationalities. 

While lawmakers have undertaken efforts to pass a similar laws in the past, Duff “took it by the horns," said Sanchez.

The new law still requires the barber apprenticeship program to conform to existing apprenticeship laws.

Each apprentice must work and learn a specific trade under a written agreement for at least 2,000 hours.

The Connecticut State Apprenticeship Council must oversee the programs and participating employers as well as apprentices must register with the labor department.

Applicants for licenses also still have to complete the eighth grade and pass a written exam.

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