On an island where dollar* pizza is no longer a dollar and brunch is repacked as breakfast with booze for $$$ it’s difficult to find value. But if you look hard and are a bit adventurous there are still some pockets left in Manhattan that we should all frequent.
An example of this is a small barber shop, near the flight walk down below the Shui Mei Cafe (67 E Broadway St).
This basement barber shop price for a haircut hasn’t changed in over two decades. They have full-service cut/edge/wash/dry service for $10 (not including tip). It’s in the heart of East Broadway Chinatown, near the section that intersects the Manhattan Bridge underpass.
When I was a kid in the 90s, my earliest memories were the smell of clippings and leftover cigarettes mixed with hairspray in the bustling basement. I came here on a Sunday at 11 am expecting a packed crowd, but instead found an empty parlor shop. All 6 men’s in the shop’s eyes lit up as I walked through the door; The shop was empty and it seems like I was the first customer they’d seen all day. One man motion me but I had a barber in mind – my grandfather’s cousin –. He has been cutting hair his entire life, and at least 30 of those years have been here.
I sit down and start to get a trim. The men in the parlor sit around idle, watching television. Two of the men receive a call and leave, business is dead and they’re going to go meet up with friends in the park. The other 3 barbers sit idle, complaining how the neighborhood had changed.
“Everyones moved away, this place isn’t the same anymore.”
“We use to have 3 cashier runners, for all the barbers, now we have one.”
“Sundays use to be packed but everyone can’t afford rent here anymore and moved out of Manhattan.”
“All the young have moved away!”
“Its difficult to make a profit in Chinatown anymore.”
From my days studying social and human geography, barbershops are associated with services that are built to support a community. But when a community migrates, often those businesses struggle. The community suffers the same gentrification problems as has most of the city.
Manhattan Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in the area, but as 8th Avenue and Flushings offer wider streets and cheaper rent, people have left. I hope more of these institutions stay in the city, and often these places are left behind in a digital age.
For those that don’t mind language barriers (language adventure?) and happy to get out of their comfort zone for a deal;
Here are detailed instructions to find the place.
Navigate to Shui Mei Cafe (67 E Broadway St).
Look for the basement walk down.
- Haircuts should be $10 (CASH-ONLY) which include
- cut wash, cut, edge up, second wash, option gel/styling
I’m unsure of there hours but Likely 11 am to 7 pm to be safe all days of the week. Good luck!