666 ABC Canberra By Louise Maher

Giuseppe Cataldo cutting hair in his Canberra salon in the 1960s.

PHOTO: Giuseppe Cataldo’s first salon included four barber’s chairs. (Supplied: Cataldo family)

Fifty years after he opened a small salon in Canberra, Giuseppe Cataldo’s family is celebrating his legacy — an award-winning family hairdressing dynasty that has flourished through decades of changing styles.

“We always understood we’re doing this as a family, this is to benefit the family,” said eldest son Emilio, a director of Cataldo’s Salon.

As a young man in post-war Italy, Giuseppe joined the national police force — the Carabinieri — to travel around his country.

But at the age of 23, his father’s illness brought him back to his village in the south, where he helped run the family’s market produce business.

In the mid-1950s, like so many of his countrymen, Giuseppe migrated to Australia, seeking a better future for his wife and two young sons, Emilio and Angelo.

PHOTO: The young Giuseppe Cataldo joined the Carabinieri to see more of Italy. (Supplied: Cataldo family)

Giuseppe took a road building job on the Cotter Dam project, sold supplies of beer, chocolate and cigarettes to his fellow workers in the camp and, during lunch breaks and at night, cut their hair.

“He always had a feeling for hairdressing, but he fine-tuned it, he honed a lot of his skills there,” Emilio said.

By 1960, Giuseppe was working in Canberra hair salons.

He saved to bring his young family out from Italy and, in 1965, opened his own business with a few barber’s chairs and styling chairs for women.

PHOTO: Giuseppe Cataldo opened his first salon on Marcus Clark Street in 1965. (Supplied: Cataldo family)

Emilio and Angelo were roped in to help; their father even built special boxes they stood on to wash the customers’ hair.

“We would sweep the floors, shampoo, brush down the customers,” Emilio said.

“We didn’t know any different so we thought it was normal to do that — help out; we didn’t mind.”


In the early 1970s, Emilio and Angelo followed their father into the hairdressing business.

“My father invited me to a hairdressing show and when I saw that I realised that [it] was more than just shampooing and sweeping floors,” Emilio said.

“It was more glamorous, it was exciting — I was sold.”

Sister Anna joined as a hairstylist in 1981 and brother Aldo became the accountant for the growing business, which had moved into larger premises in the historic Melbourne building. 

Clients have included prime ministers and judges, and country women who would drive hundreds of kilometres to have their hair styled by Giuseppe.

PHOTO: Members of the Cataldo family and their salon team with competition trophies won in the 1980s. (Supplied: Cataldo family)

Members of the third generation who have followed in the family’s footsteps include Emilio’s daughters Shona and Lauren, Angelo’s daughter Claudia and Aldo’s son Michael.

The wider family includes more than 350 apprentices and stylists trained at Cataldo’s.

“Many of them are successfully running businesses around the world [and] teaching, so we feel very proud,” Emilio said.

Emilio said his father, who died aged 83 in 2010, instilled in his children a sense of customer service as well as hard work and was forever grateful for his life in Canberra.

“The fact that he came out here — he was embraced by the Canberra community — he just felt very blessed,” Emilio said.

“He didn’t feel he was belittling himself if he was giving service.

“He really did whatever it took to please his customers.”

PHOTO: Giuseppe’s sons Emilio and Angelo have also had successful hairdressing careers. (666 ABC Canberra: Louise Maher)

No Comments

Post A Comment