Successful Movember Prompts Yearly Tradition for “Mayor of Yorkville”

It looked more like a gala event than a denim store. Lights. Media. Black-clad servers weaving through tables of merchandise, offering patrons samplings of delicious, gourmet-looking snacks. If it all seems much ado about a moustache then perhaps you haven’t heard the latest: for the first time in 44 years, the “Mayor of Yorkville” is clean-shaven.

On Wednesday, Joel Carman, owner of the venerable blue jean shop Over the Rainbow and much-loved community leader, shaved his trademark facial hair in the culmination of a unique Movember charity drive. For the 62-year-old, whose playfully bushy ‘stache draped his upper lip for most of his life (even his wife has never seen him without it), the reaction has all been in good fun.

“Everybody’s been very kind,” Carman chuckled as customers and friends filtered through the store to get a glimpse of his new look. “When somebody says you look younger they’re basically saying you look like a dork. But you look like a young dork.”

Raising money for Movember posed an intriguing challenge for Carman. The idea, then, became that he’d shave his famous facial hair if he raised $25,000. When that was attained by November 2, he and his staff raised the stakes. For every extra $1000, Carman would keep the moustache off an extra day into December.

The final tally came out to over $41,000, putting Carman in fourth place among the nation’s top individual fundraisers. Quite a feat, considering Canada topped the world in donation dollars with almost $37 million raised. The result, Carman said, was worth the sleepless nights leading up to the big shave.

“Well, I think it’s a terrible disease-.but everybody wanted to help,” Carman said. “It prompts them to want to do more and certainly from this venture it prompts me to want to do more because I feel so much better about it.”

Near the back of the store, Eli Zeldin, a five-year employee and frequent Movember participant, recalled laughing when Carman entered the store clean-shaven. But “he’s a handsome dude” Zeldin said, and added that Carman’s reputation and dedication are key factors to the success of the campaign.

“The fact that we were able to hit $40,000 is fantastic and hopefully next year we can hit the $50,000 or more,” Zeldin said. “We’ve got to keep working because cancer isn’t something you raise a little bit of money for and it’s gone.”

Monica Gould, another employee, looked out across the buzzing sales floor from a spot near the change rooms.

“I think I screamed a little bit too loud when I saw him,” Gould recalled. “And I was just jumping up and down-.He didn’t even know the impact he could make and I think it’s amazing.”

Carman, meanwhile, made his way through the crowd to greet and thank everyone who came in to say hi. He also noted that Movember donations are still being accepted for the next few months. As it stands, he will remain clean-shaven for 16 extra days, though he hopes that continued donations will push the date to the end of December. The big question, though, is whether or not he will eventually grow the moustache back.

“My sense is that I will. It’s just who I am. It’s part of my persona. But you never know,” Carman said.

“The moustache is part of his big personality.,” Zeldin said, adding that he hopes Joel eventually grows his facial hair back. “He’s got a big heart and a huge sense of humour so really it’s part and parcel with Joel.”

“He’s so adorable. It definitely takes an easy 20 years off,” Gould added. “I’d like to see him without a moustache more often than not. Maybe in the summer have no ‘stache but keep his upper lip warm in the winter.”

Regardless, moustache or no moustache Carman is already considering next year’s campaign.

“I think that the hook this year was to see me (clean-shaven),” Carman said. “So (next year) we’ll find something that’s really neat and maybe involve more people in our community so that we could reach out just a little bit further.”

Meanwhile, for those who know him well, this campaign was just another example of what has made Carman such a respected and cherished member of the Yorkville community for over thirty years.

“He does a lot of other charitable work but I’m so proud that he did this for (Movember),” Gould said. “I’m definitely very proud of him that he did this, not just for his friends, but for the world.”

– Mike Crisolago