Xavier Cruz has been a stylist since the mid-1980s, but he did not make the decision to focus solely on men until 2014. His reason for the shift, he said with a cheeky smile, was because he “was really bored. ” All joking aside, his true reasoning revealed a clever mind who saw a niche in the salon world and decided to fill it. As Xavier pointed out, there are almost no male salons in New York City. There are barbershops, yes, but not upscale men’s salons where you can get hot towel shaves and buzz cuts but also coloring and other processes. “We’re stylists, not just barbers, ” Xavier clarified, adding, “When guys choose Barba, they know they’re not just coming in for a trim. ”When I visited Xavier in 2016, he had recently moved his salon a couple blocks west on 19th Street. He explained that his old location had grown too small for his clientele – “Guys were literally standing outside! ” The new spot is highly modern, with black and chrome interiors and an atmosphere that echoes the feeling of high-end nightclubs and spas. In this space, Xavier has continued to offer many services, including single and double process color jobs, beard trimming with scissors as opposed to a razor, and beard dying. He also has perfected the art of gray blending, a way of making men’s gray hairs look softer and more natural. Thanks to his unique menu of services, Xavier has amassed a clientele base throughout the city and beyond: some out-of-state customers make a day of coming in to Manhattan to get pampered. “We are a safe haven for some men, ” Xavier informed me, explaining that some guys often feel uncomfortable going to a salon. Barba provides a space where they can get their hair dyed without fear of being judged. It has become such a safe social space that Xavier has considered hiring a nail technician so that the men can have a manicure along with their hair. Many men have told him, “If you did nails here, I would get my nails done. ” Another service Xavier is hoping to add in the future is Scalp Micro-Pigmentation, or SMP for short. It is a special tattoo drawn onto those who are balding to make it look like you have stubble on your head. As far as Xavier knows, there is not one salon in the state that offers SMP, and so he is excited to be the first. And if anyone needs an example of SMP, they need look no farther than Xavier’s own head – he pointed to the front of his scalp, and I was surprised to realize that what I was sure was shaved hair was actually a tattoo. Despite the variety of high quality services, Xavier feels that the prices are still reasonable – “between an average barbershop and an average salon, ” he estimated. Customers are guaranteed excellent service, since “everyone’s super talented” in the salon and everyone who walks through the door is offered coffee, tea, and wine. I was also pleased to witness the camaraderie in the salon: Xavier admitted that many times, “stylists are out for blood, ” but that Barba stylists share clients and get along well. He concluded by emphasizing that anyone who comes to Barba is “in for a treat! ”
The store is a mosaic in itself. Denes Petoe, CEO, and Graham Barr, president, have laid out their showroom to facilitate the nearly 1, 000 varieties of natural stone, as well as to capture the eye of each customer. Style here is in the eye of the beholder, not in the hands of the retailer.
“I really want families to play together. That’s my goal in the store, ” said Christina Clark, who has been wowing parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, children for decades with her wonderland of toys and games. Christina worked in a toy store as a young mother and realized she had found her calling. She opened Kidding Around on Bleecker Street, followed by several other locations. Today, it is the 15th Street shop that has survived throughout the years. “I love going to work every day, so it was a good choice for me. ”In the shop’s beginnings, its selection of toys and games leaned toward the traditional — “no batteries, no remote controls, and everything that just uses your imagination. ” Over the years, however, Christina chose to grow with the times and introduce more modern, automated items into her inventory. Her own children later helped her bring new options into the store. Today, Christina feels lucky to work with her daughter, Kasey Coyle, who uses her background in applied behavioral analysis to stock plenty of books and toys for younger children and those with special needs. Interestingly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina found that her clientele went back to the basics — the demand for puzzles and classic board games was revived. “I hope that trend continues, ” she said earnestly. “I hope that people remember how much fun they had playing games with their family so it brings us together and off our devices. ”
On any given day when passing by, there are legions of young, hopeful actors hanging around outside this building in between classes. Lee Strasberg, known to moviegoers for his role as gangster Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, founded his institute in 1969, almost forty years after he participated in the formation of the Group Theatre (an ensemble of actors that were committed to putting on productions representative of "the life of their times. ") As artistic director of the Institute until his death in 1982, Strasberg continued to train his students through Method Acting - a technique that has been recognized internationally. Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Barbra Streisand, and Marlo Thomas are only a few of the actors who were taken under Strasberg's wing and taught to fly. Today, the Institute continues to flourish as it turns out many fine actors both here and at its Hollywood location. For those who would like to watch some of this training in action, there are two theaters (The Marilyn Monroe Theater and the Lee Strasberg Theater) connected to the Institute where students perform.
Enter through the looming stone archway and immense wooden doors and walk inside the Horseman, where the gloomy interior is an aesthetic rather than dreary. The exposed brick, recycled wood from new England barns, and flickering natural gas lamps conjure a communal vibe. In the dark warmth, one can almost imagine a massive stone fireplace roaring with pots of stew simmering over open flames, or moors lying in wait just on the other side of the smoked windows. This rustic, colonial gastropub is one of the latest additions to 15th street. When we asked the bartender why the pub was named after Ichabod Crane’s spooky pursuer, he gestured toward the door and asked us what street we were adjacent to: Irving Place - and local legend claims Washington Irving lived at 122 East 17th Street. His famed character’s namesake bar is anything but sinister. The rotating seasonal beers and atypical comfort food could warm anyone's bones.