Ezio Metallo was on his way to his barbershop at 220 Queen Street East when he heard about the fire over the radio.
Although the public was advised to avoid the downtown area, all he could think about was making it to work.
Then as he was starting to drive down the Bruce Street hill, he saw the smoke.
“I’m thinking, ‘that looks like my shop,’” Metallo recounted to SooToday. “I got there through the mall because the downtown was closed, so I drove through the mall to the Essar [GFL Memorial Gardens] parking lot, and I could see my shop in flames.”
“It was a shock.”
Metallo - having rented chairs in different shops around the city since beginning his career as a barber in 1980 - opened Ezio’s Hair Design 15 years ago.
This March would’ve marked the barbershop’s 16th anniversary.
“It was a little hard - I had a few months I was just waiting for customers,” Metallo said. “It was tough at first, but I made it through.”
Years after building a following at the downtown fixture, Metallo’s livelihood was reduced to rubble Thursday in an early morning fire that gutted 220 and 224 Queen Street East.
Metallo says it’s been a tough time for him personally - the loss of his business comes just months after his losing his daughter.
Sara Metallo died in June 2018 at the age of 31 - leaving behind two daughters.
“I got a very good clientele - a big clientele - and big support from the people in town. I did very well in the shop, in the business and all that,” said Metallo. “I think everybody liked me, and I liked everybody.”
“It’s hard to see it go.”
Although a few of his colleagues have reached out to him - offering him a chair in their shops - Metallo says that he’s grown used to having his own shop.
“I’d like to start all over again, open up another barbershop,” he said. “I’m actually checking my options and see where’s the best location to reopen.”
“I know it won’t be easy, but I’m definitely going to start again.”
Some of Metallo’s close friends and family have now launched a GoFundMe campaign for the barber in order to help him out.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Metallo, fighting back tears over the phone. “I don’t know what to say, I’m very thankful.”
Matthew Kruschack, who spoke to SooToday on behalf of Metallo’s friends and family, says the GoFundMe campaign went live around 1 a.m. Friday morning.
The campaign raised more than $6,000 toward its $10,000 goal by late Friday afternoon.
“The outpouring of love - and donations, obviously - has been pretty overwhelming,” Kruschack said.
He also reached out to administrators of the Facebook group, You Know You're From Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, When???, to post about the GoFundMe campaign.
“I was thinking even if everyone [in the group] gave 50 cents, we would easily accomplish this number,” Kruschack said. “Normally this wouldn’t be a post that would go up, and they made an exception for this - so they allowed it.”
Kruschack says for the most part, money coming into the campaign has been donated by family and friends.
“But there are random people from this group that are living in the Sault now, or who used to live in the Sault that are donating that don’t even know who he is, and that, I think, is the special thing about this,” he said.
The cause of the blaze is currently investigation by the Ontario Fire Marshal, Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services and Sault Ste. Marie Police Service.