A small group of affluent fans of Astor Place Hairstylists have joined together to save the iconic and affordable barber shop from pandemic-related ruin.
Paul Vezza, 64, a manager whose family has owned and operated the shop at 2 Astor Place since the 1940s, described the save as a miracle — for the shop and for the 30 barbers who are currently employed there. Prior to the pandemic, he had employed about 50 barbers and hairstylists.
He dreaded informing them that the shop was going to close on November 25th, as a result of business declining 90% since their reopening in June at reduced capacity in accordance with COVID-19 safety restrictions. Jeffrey Gural, who owns the building and waived the shop’s rent, according to the New York Post, told Vezza that he didn’t want the business to close.
“It was because of the people who would’ve lost their jobs, that was the sickening part,” Vezza said. “When I really laid it on them, they were distraught to say the least.”
Soon after news broke in October that the barbershop was expected to close, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime regular, stopped in for a haircut, and customers began calling the shop to express their sadness, Vezza said.
One group of customers, including financier Jonathan Trichter, political advisor Howard Wolfson, and pollster Jefrey Pollock, decided to save the basement barber shop. Trichter declined to discuss details of the arrangement, but as part of the deal, Vezza and his brother will no longer own the shop.
“I’ve known him for decades. I’ve always teased him about buying the place,” Trichter told Gothamist in an interview. “And now that they’re ready to retire, there’s an opportunity for some really loyal customers who love the place as much as I do, to stay in.”
Trichter described getting his first “grown up” hair cut at the shop when he was 15 years old and how it launched him into his teens. Trichter also recalled making some questionable hair choices at Astor, including the “Bosworth,” a hairstyle that features a mullet popularized by former NFL player Brian Bosworth.
Trichter promises that while Vezza might not physically own Astor Place anymore, his and his family’s spirit will remain there forever.
“It’s a family business, they’ll always be here in spirit. They’ll also be around cooperatively as they go on to other things, but they’re always a phone call away,” he said.
Vezza also declined to discuss details of the deal, but insisted the transition will be seamless and none of the barbers are going anywhere—some of whom have been at the shop for over 25 years.
Trichter says that by saving Astor Place Hair, the group is also saving “40 to 50 middle class jobs, and keep an iconic business in downtown New York thriving for another 75 years.”
This isn’t the first time the shop has been hit hard financially. In 2004, the shop downsized from multiple floors to the basement because of rising rents.
Having seen the impact COVID-19 has had on other barber shops and some of his own customers’ businesses, Vezza says he’s just grateful the family business will endure.
“My father passed away six years ago. He would be delighted to see it’s still going,” he said.