LANDSTOWN — For much of his Navy career, Ernesto Castaneda served as a ship’s serviceman, which meant he handled things such as the ship’s store, vending machines and cutting hair. He worked for a vending company after he left the military, but it soon became clear that it was better to start something for himself.
He opened Caste’s Barber Shop about 25 years ago, and the business has grown into one with loyal regulars, even some with military connections who come by for a haircut when visiting Virginia Beach.
He joined the Navy at 19 in the late 1960s, leaving the Philippines. His reason is mighty familiar to those who know the old recruiting pitches. “To see the world,” Castaneda said.
South America and Spain were favorites among the places he visited as a sailor, and he was stationed in Hampton Roads in the 1970s while serving aboard the aircraft carrier America.
He’s been living in Hampton Roads since the 1980s because he liked the area, and Virginia Beach is where he opened his business after a brief period working for somebody else.
He called it Caste’s after what people called him in the Navy. Some fellow sailors struggled with his last name, he said.
Among the barbers working with him now at is Carlos Cayaba, 68. The men know each other from their military service.
“I was stationed in Annapolis with him,” Castaneda said. “What year did you leave Annapolis — 1974?”
“Nineteen seventy-three,” Cayaba said.
Castaneda motioned to the third barber in the busy shop, Jose Lopez, 56. “Him I met through his father-in-law.”
The father-in-law once cut hair here, too.
The men worked nonstop during a visit on this past month. Castaneda had stopped back by the shop to visit with a reporter, but soon he, too, was cutting hair.
He also was preparing for a visit to Baguio in the Philippines to see family. After that, it’s back to work — cutting hair in the business he built.