BIG CHANGES KEEP BROOME STREET’S VIBE HIP
The famed French epigram “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they stay the same), is a truism for anyone who has lived in New York long enough to see things come full circle. But rarely do things come full circle as quickly as 254 Broome Street, where a few years ago, crowds flocked into Mayson Gallery to check out solo and group exhibitions by emerging and well-established artists.
Today, a new shingle hangs outside of 254 Broome. Hip Upper East Side haircut shop Artisan Barber has opened a Lower East Side outpost. And patrons will get a bigger bang for their haircut buck in this space. In addition to buzzcuts, trims, and shaves, the new tenants will also be exhibiting artwork.
“We ‘ll have a mixture of house art from our own collection and professional art on exhibition and for sale,” says Artisan Barber founder Charlie McCoy, who specifically chose the Lower East side for his sophomore shop largely because of the neighborhood’s artistic vibe.
“I wanted to stay in Manhattan but be closer to Brooklyn and a more diverse downtown market,” Charlie said. “I chose the space on Broome Street because I fell in love with the block.”
And it’s not too hard to fall in love with this block, whose 100-year-old buildings are in such pristine condition that Martin Scorsese chose it as a location for a key scene depicting the 1972 mafia hit at Little Italy’s Umberto’s Clam House in his new filmThe Irishman.
Like Scorsese, whose scenic artists brought mid-century storefronts to the block for the shooting of his film, Charlie McCoy has gone retro with the furnishings of his new shop.
“I called the décor in the original Upper East Side location ‘classic 1920s electric vibe,’” Charlie explains. “But I’ve been dying to experiment with a mid-century modern look. I went with industrial 1960s era filing cabinets and folding theater seats, along with a modern black leather and chrome armchair for the waiting area.”
The pièce de résistance is the service area of the shop.
“I found vintage late 1960s era leather barber chairs that still have ashtrays built into them,” Charlie say's. “I bought six of them.”
The six chairs on Broome Street plus the four chairs in the Upper East Side shop posed a new issue for Charlie - where to find the next generation of highly skilled barbers to work behind those chairs.
“We need to bring in more talent,” Charlie said. “So, we’re instituting an apprenticeship program for master barbers to hone their skills. We have a training area downstairs in our Lower East Side shop where we already have two apprentices working with our team. They’re showing outstanding progress.”
Currently the work on the walls at 254 Broome is an eclectic mix of classic prints and one-of-a-kind new works. But Charlie intends rotate the art, so he’ll be able to showcase more new work.
“We’re inviting painters from the local community to have their work displayed and on sale here. This is a win-win all around. We’ll get to have some really cool works of art in rotating display. And they artists will have an opportunity to get their work out there,” he explains
“We’re also planning to have student art displayed here from the local design school to give the next generation’s Basquiat their first chance at having their work exhibited.”
Basquiat, coincidentally, was known to meet up in the 1980s at Keith Haring’s loft on Broome Street – a few blocks from Artisan Barber’s new shop.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.