In a city where cultural fads and neighborhoods change frequently, one necessity has remained the same - men continue to be in need of a haircut. That simple fact has kept Olde Tyme Barbers in business since 1929. Or at least that is how Joe “the Boss” Magnetico explains being successful, despite the way midtown has changed since his grandfather opened his doors.
Joe is the third generation of barbers, and his daughter Anne-Marie is the fourth and first female barber in the family. Joe’s grandfather, the original “Joe the Barber,” first opened his shop at the Statler Hilton Hotel. In 1945, his son, Frank Magnetico, moved the barbershop to the current location on 41st Street underneath the Chanin building, a New York City national landmark. This makes Olde Tyme Barbers the oldest retail establishment currently in business on 41st from the East River to the New York Public Library.
It is easy to tell that Joe, his family, and his staff take pride in the work that they do and the history they have created. Joe still uses the original chairs from the barbershop his grandfather opened. Sitting behind the cash register, Joe stated, “We’re not a business you can do on the internet.” By this he means that despite the way business and the neighborhood has changed in the past years, Joe and his family have survived for so long by remaining true to their trade. He charges what is fair and treats everyone who comes in with respect. Joe told me, “you have to be able to make relationships in business: it’s how you survive.” This is why Joe’s regulars are so loyal. Generations of men in the same family continue to come from all over the Metropolitan area to get their hair cut by his staff. They have been able to do something special in midtown - to create a neighborhood environment in an area of Manhattan that is not considered a neighborhood anymore.
Joe ended our conversation by mentioning that he does not believe that he could open a barber shop in today’s market for the price that he charges on this block. "We are a dying breed in the sense that there is not much room in midtown for small owned businesses." In his opinion, all the chains in midtown do not bring the same sense of community or character to the area like the businesses that use to be there.
Walking into Spiff for the first time, I was taken aback by its sleekness. While most of the other men's salons that I have visited have tried to convey a sense of old-fashioned masculinity - with an array of Oriental rugs, leather chairs, and billiards rooms - Spiff professes a contemporary look, more attuned to the modern man. As managing partner Danny Kerr declares, "If, at the other salons, your chauffeur is driving you up in a Rolls Royce or a Bentley, here, our men arrive in a Ferrari or Maserati." Spiff provides haircuts, shaves, manicures, and other men's grooming options...and always served with an alcoholic beverage. Men are encouraged to sign up for either the six month or yearlong unlimited memberships, which allow for unlimited shoe shines, haircuts, manicures and discounts on other spa treatments.Danny began working in the salon industry in 1989. Starting out as a psychology student in Anchorage, Alaska, he ended up leaving for Hawaii and ultimately Los Angeles, where his girlfriend entered beauty school. Observing her in this profession, he decided to try his hand at barber school. Soon after, he found his way to Manhattan where he worked in a few men's salons. Then in 2008, Danny realized his dream, and opened his own "sleek and cool" shop.Spiff primarily caters to clients in media and finance, and has adopted their sense of promptness in its services. "The first thing I learned about New Yorkers is the importance of their time," Danny told me. "Everyone's busy and needs to get somewhere. We try to help them by offering many services at once, so people can get in and out quickly during their lunch hour." But still, Danny suggests, "we give people the opportunity to rejuvenate - a little break from work where they can appreciate a luxury service in a reasonable amount of time."Danny generously offered Eben, a Manhattan Sideways' summer intern, to try out their services. I was thrilled for him to have this unique experience. He received their "Classic Haircut," which included a shampoo, head and neck massage, manicure and shoeshine. In Eben's words, "I left feeling relaxed and refreshed, with one of the best haircuts I've ever received."
New York has more than its fair share of yakitori houses and sushi bars, but this Japanese transplant is concerned with presenting Teishoku, or home-style cooking, to its American diners. Since 1958, Japan has been fortunate enough to have access to this chain's nourishing, traditional fare, where a "healthy body and mind" are top priority. Throughout Asia, there are over three hundred Ootoya restaurants, and as of 2012, New Yorkers can dine in the light, airy interior of their elegant US flagship restaurant on 18th Street or their latest addition on 41st.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was up to 33rd Street, she reacted immediately, "You know that this is the street that Wolfgang's is on, don't you?" I loved the description that she and her husband shared with me. "It is an old world man-cave that has incredible charm and certainly appeals to the serious eater." Situated in the former historic Vanderbilt Hotel with magnificently tiled low vaulted ceilings, my husband and I agree that this is a splendid restaurant to dine.Wolfgang's, located in the sleek New York Times building on West 41st Street, is equally pleasant, but offers an entirely different ambiance. During the daytime, the sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing the steaks to glisten even more as they are being brought to the tables. The businessmen in their suits still dominate during the lunch hour; however, theatergoers and tourists fill the restaurant in the evening.Wolfgang Zwiener spent some forty years digesting the world of steak by working in the iconic restaurant, Peter Luger's. Think of it this way, Wolfgang received a veritable master's degree in meats in Brooklyn, and now has earned his doctorate in his own restaurant, where he has written a top-notch thesis. When others might have chosen to slow down a bit or even to retire, he began opening his own restaurants.Over the years, I have been to the four in Manhattan, with the 33rd Street flagship location being the one where we have chosen to celebrate many special occasions. As noted, it is a favorite of friends of ours, and when I asked them to speak to me further about Wolfgang's, the immediate response was, "Personally, of all the steak houses in New York, this is the one to go to." They went on to describe the menu as not only having excellent steaks, but they also always look forward to ordering seafood, and then brace themselves as the kitchen presents them with a seafood platter appetizer that is "utterly outrageous." There are jumbo shrimp (my number one oxymoron) and lobster with huge pieces to devour, and thrown in for good measure, some oysters and clams. "Even if you leave the steak out of the equation, it makes for an incredible meal." But, who can leave the steak out? According to my husband, a man who is passionate about his meat, Wolfgang gets it right every time whether he decides on a filet or a porterhouse. And I, of course, am all about the side dishes and salads, which Wolfgang continues to deliver.
A boutique luxury hotel, run by the Spanish company, Eurostars, Dylan brings a European flair to midtown hospitality. The connected Benjamin's Steakhouse, one of the finest in the city, offers breakfast and room service for hotel guests. The building that the hotel occupies was once the Chemists' Club, which played host to a group of chemists meeting for reasons professional and social but ultimately moved further north. The building still bears the Chemists' Club name outside, which adds an air of alchemy to the facade.