Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mayfair Barber Shop

Don't worry. It's not vanishing yet.

The Mayfair Barber Shop sits around the corner at one of the city's best little overlooked corners--best because it's a slice of the old city, miraculously preserved. Walking up 8th Avenue, as you approach 39th Street, after you pass the Peep Show Video joint, you see the lovely LIQUOR STORE neon sign, and then a hand-painted sign for the Mayfair that says "around corner," with an arrow pointing the way.

See all my Mayfair photos here

You turn and pass a SHOE REPAIR shop--zippers replaced, orthopedic work, while-u-wait.

Pushboys, too old to be called boys, heave past with racks loaded with bolts of fabric, the last remains of the once bustling Garment District. Here and there, you find the old, true city hidden in the weave of the new.

When you step into the Mayfair, the air is cool and smells of Pinaud. Two barbers vie for your business, directing you to their chairs. You follow the one who reaches out, almost taking your hand. His hair is as white as his smock.

As he works around your head, he explains, "You gotta eat the black grape. It's better for you. The white grape is okay, but not as good. Dark food is best. Better than white food. I like the dark grape in juice. I drink the Welch's."

The barber shop is 60 years old, he says, though other sources put it at 50 or 75. One of the barbers, Mr. Cruz, has been cutting hair here for over 30 years.

I was there on a quiet afternoon, but Zachary Levin captured the busy flavor of the place in a piece for Mr. Beller's Neighborhood:

"'The city can be a lonely place,' the old black man says, looking down at his shoes. 'Most of the good joints closed down.'

Downtown billiard halls and late-night diners were where many of Mayfair's customers used to hang out.

'It is the Yuppster wiped out all the class in the city, isn't it, Rocco?' says the young Russian. 'They call it sanitation, huh?'

'Sanitization,' Rocco corrects him, his eyes on his client. 'People don't change, only the words.' 'Yuppsters! I don't know from Yuppsters,' the garmento interrupts. 'All's I know is I'm a pastrami on rye with a malt.'"


Anonymous said...

I've gone by there everyday for the last 18 years, I've gotten my haircut there for the last 10. It's the best- all the guys are cool. truly old school, old time NY. That entire corner, the liquor store, zipper place, shoe repair- simply NY classics. I cherish that kinda stuff every damn day!

laura said...

what a nice normal thing to see! shoe repair, haircut, zipper repair? they keep it real. normal is the new chic.