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Groton barber still hard at work, but not all of his customers are so lucky

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published October 03. 2013 4:00AM   Updated October 03. 2013 6:45PM

Groton - Joe C. Quaratella Jr. cut the hair of a young man Wednesday who graduates from officer training school on Friday but can't move to his next training program because his paperwork's tied up.

Quaratella, owner of Nautilus Barber Shop near the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, met people who tried to shop at the commissary on the base, but found the grocery closed.

"The government has had three years to settle this," Quaratella said.

Nearly 1,300 people arrived to work Tuesday at the sub base and the Connecticut National Guard facilities, only to find they had to wrap things up and leave.

They left not knowing when they'd be back after the federal government shut down for the first time in 17 years.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to extend the current spending rates for six weeks but also to delay the Affordable Care Act, which Senate leaders would not agree to.

The government closed at midnight Monday.

Ed Ettinger of Mystic, interviewed Wednesday in the barber shop, said he had tickets to fly to Annapolis, Md., though he wasn't sure what he'd end up doing.

"I am heading to the now non-existent Navy-Air Force game this weekend," he said. It was unclear whether the game would go on as planned.

He said there was plenty of blame to go around among federal officials.

"I'm quite upset because I feel the Republicans are being held as the villains but the other side won't compromise," he said.

Sean Bosselman was among three members without at least one of their jobs. Bosselman, interviewed outside Groton Head Start, said he bagged groceries at the commissary until Friday. Bosselman's brother, who works full-time at the commissary and at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, has three young children and is out of one job.

Sean Bosselman also said his father, who works in supplies on the base, is temporarily not working.

"Honestly, I don't even know what happened," Sean Bosselman said. "They're not really saying much." As for the close of the commissary, he added, "Stop & Shop is going to be loaded."

Alysha Uhler of Norwich, who works at the Groton Stop & Shop, said Wednesday the store was busier than usual.

"Yesterday we had lines down the aisles," she said. Employees were hustling to keep up with the demand, she said.

At the barber shop, Quaratella cut hair while commenting on the lack of federal wisdom. He's run the shop more than 50 years and cut the hair of Clarence B. Sharp, the former mayor for whom Groton's highway is named. Quaratella's also seen his share of U.S. presidents.

"This president couldn't run the Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department," he said, referring to the local fire district near bankruptcy.

Customer Steve Skrabacz, who works for Electric Boat and lives in New London, said the federal government standoff has become like a game of chicken.

"Like who's going to flinch first," he said. "It's a shame, but that's how it works, I suppose."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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