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Friday, May 13, 2011

So it goes

Claudio looks like he's going. From the NY Times:

Mr. Caponigro said the landlord, Hong Kai Lin Realty, told him that he could stay only if he agreed to a rent of $1,650, almost triple what he is now paying.

The 15-by-15-foot space, the landlord told him, might be turned into a takeout Chinese restaurant. Yat T. Man, a lawyer for the landlord, said his client was a “mom-and-pop landlord, not a Donald Trump,” and could not afford to keep Mr. Caponigro so far below the market rate.

Another victim of a flipped building and huge commercial rent increase. It's nobody's fault - this is New York City. Our strength and weakness has always been that our driving force is the chance to turn one dollar into two.

This barbershop has gotten a lot of press over the years - some for the old-schoolness of it, some for the supposed mob connections, some, as always, for the celebrities who've frequented it (J-Lo once filmed a video there). By far the best article on Claudio and the neighborhood is here.

I've been a faithful customer of Claudio's for a while now. And what I want people to know about him is that he is a great, great barber. He does all the little things. He'll trim your eyebrows, apply some combination of about 8 different tonics with names like "Eau de Portugal" at various times during the cut, and when he's done he'll have you looking like an extra on Mad Man. And the straight razor shave? I'd trust him to do it blindfolded with a razor dipped in arsenic.

Claudio is not a hustler. He charges 10 bucks for a haircut and 5 for a shave. Despite the press, the place is not really busy - usually one or two people are in there, and often there's no wait at all. One time when I was in the seat, and there was one other person waiting, someone came in and asked innocently "how long's it going to be?" "There's a barbershop around the corner" was Claudio's dismissive reply. You want a good haircut, no problem. You're more concerned about time, there's plenty of other options. I don't think the fact that he gave away 10 bucks even crossed his mind.

But like it or not, money eventually catches up with everyone in this town, even at 81 years of age. There might be place in New York City for someone who just wants to do their job well on their own terms, and make a modest but comfortable living doing it. But it's a place that ultimately exists on borrowed time. So it goes.

Claudio's is on 116th street and First Avenue. Drop by for cut this month, he'd be glad to see you.

Neighborhood: East Harlem
Tract Walked: M188

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