“The Community Man, that should be my tagline,” Manny said, “My customers love me, and I love them.”
Having worked and cut hair at this location for seventeen years, it is no wonder that Manny is an established fixture in the neighborhood. When I asked him to tell me a little more about himself, he shared with me that he began his career at Barber School when he was seventeen years old and worked for two years before going to college to study psychology. After graduating, he went straight back to working. “I love it,” Manny said, “working for yourself– - it’s the American dream, right?”
This small, old-world neighborhood barbershop is loaded with personality. Everything about Barbiere is unique: the whimsical wrought-iron gate out front, the retro hair and shaving products along the walls, and the high-quality, old-fashioned service. When we poked our heads in to chat with the barbers and their clients—all seated in vintage leather chairs—they were proud to tell us that James Franco is among the celebrities that drop by for a haircut or a classic shave.
After being a barber for years, owner Alex decided that he was done working for other people, and wanted his own barbershop. When the opportunity came from one of his clients - the landlord of the building in which Ace of Cuts resides – he took it, and almost immediately regretted his decision. “The building was scary. That is all I can say, really. There was debris everywhere, and I thought ‘Oh no, what did I get myself into? ’” Alex tells the story with a smile on his face now, and says he “still cannot believe [he] made it work. ” Alex redesigned the space himself, and it took him three weeks to have it open for business, complete with a minibar for customers. He brought in a couple of trusted friends, as well as his father, from whom he learned the barber’s trade, to work in the shop. When we stopped by, more than a few people from Alex’s loyal customer base were waiting to have their hair cut, and they assured us that Ace of Cuts is quickly becoming a go-to barber shop.
There are numerous barbershops and hair salons in the East Village, but I understood why the East Village Barbershop was so popular the second that I met Ruben, the owner. His charisma is infectious and his cheeky, humorous one-liners had me and the Manhattan Sideways photographer, Alex, grinning from the moment he began to speak. “I would have gotten my nails done if I knew you were coming, ” he joked before telling us about his extensive history as a barber, while expertly cutting a customer’s hair. He got his start in 1996 in Bayside, Queens and worked there for almost two decades before opening East Side Barbershop in 2013. When I asked him what sets him apart from other barbers, he replied, “My specialty is just being me. ” His customer, a young man named Steven, spoke up, telling me that he started going to Ruben just a couple months after he opened and has been visiting him for his haircut ever since. Ruben smiled and said, “I have the best customers who come here. This neighborhood is amazing – they’re not even my customers, they’re my friends. ” As Ruben continued to tell me about his life, how being a barber runs in his family and how he learned the art at a young age, three more people walked into the small shop. He greeted each person who came by warmly, including those who did not even enter the store: He yelled greetings at pedestrians who waved from the street. It was clear that for the blocks surrounding his store, Ruben is a celebrity. The gruff man from Queens continued joking around with both us and his customers, making everyone laugh with lines like, “Will you hug me? ” and “Imagine me with makeup... now forget about it. ” When a man on the street shouted a precocious quote back at him, he turned to us and said, “You see that? All the men around here think I look sexy. ” Meanwhile, he performed incredibly precise work on Steven, creating a perfectly straight line along his part. Afterwards, he finished by massaging Steven’s head with a hot mint oil towel. With a look of satisfaction he said to me, “I’m good at what I do and I don’t care about anybody else. ”
Greg Sysoiev has a straightforward goal when it comes to his barbershop: he wants the customer to be able to “sit down and actually enjoy the haircut. ” Indeed, the comfortable chairs, the wall’s original brick, and the overall classic décor of Original Barbershop contribute to an environment that stresses comfort and personalized attention above the mechanical, conveyor belt system that Greg notices in many other barbershops. With over twelve years in the trade, Greg feels that he has the right formula to ensure a superior customer experience. Born in a town 900 miles from Moscow, Greg immigrated to the United States when he was seventeen and lived in Astoria, Queens. He began working for a barbershop owned by Russians shortly afterwards. Twelve years later, in 2015, he was able to open his own shop in the East Village, a neighborhood that Greg feels “still has character” in the midst of rising rents. In addition to barbering, Greg has used his locale to host a whiskey tasting event with other business owners in the neighborhood and plans to host other activities - like stand-up comedy - and annual events in the future. This of course does not detract from the meticulous yet entertaining attention that Greg gives to his customers, but rather goes to show the extent to which his barbershop is an integral member of the neighborhood and will likely become a local favorite for those wanting more than a traditional haircut.
As Hamlet would say, “This is one of the places you come to the village for. ” Walking through the door, a small white pooch runs up to greet you, then leads you back through the racks of coats, pants, hats, and other accessories. As the owner, Hamlet, emphasizes, the inventory here is vintage clothing (not a second-hand shop), that dates from the 1940s to the 80s. The selection is sourced through various vintage collectors from all over the world. Hamlet credits his eye for fashion to his mother, who, he says, was a fashion designer in his home country of Dominican Republic. He is very proud of his collection and iterates that the store is not for “80s party” accoutrement, rather it is a resource for historic elegance and style. And if you stop in, you may even get your picture taken, as Hamlet will often have his customers model his new acquisitions.
Every nook and cranny of this tiny storefront's space is full of an extensive and eclectic collection of musical instruments from around the world. Instruments hang from the ceiling just as haphazardly as they are stacked on top of one another from the floor. Located at this same address for over fifty years, Music Inn has an impressive sitar selection from the 1960's, a rare 100 year old sarinda from Afghanistan, as well as adorable little child guitars and mini pianos. I had a quick throwback moment when I spied an autoharp. Do you remember music class in elementary school back in the 60's?
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”
After moving to her current location from East 7th Street, Lalita Kumut is pleased with her new address for selling aromatherapy products. On one of our recent visits, we stood by while a delighted group of girls were creating their own fragrances. From the variety of custom blends, soaps, oils and other smell-good body products, to the lovely women who have been in this business for over twenty years, the Fragrance Shop offers a memorable experience for the senses.