Post #3: Semion the Barber – New York

Happy New Year Everyone,

Many of you were asking when the Semion Story will continue and I would like to apologize for the delay as we were very busy with setting up our new location at Stanley Marketplace. So thank you for your patience and without further ado here is Post #3.

During the barber program, he joined an apprenticeship program in a Dominico – Puerto Rican barbershop in uptown Manhattan. Here is an interesting fact: six-months after immigrating and just starting to learn English, he needed to learn Spanish barber terminology to communicate with Spanish-speaking clientele. In that barbershop, he was taught point side-burns, tape-ups, tapered, and razor line-ups, and other precision-based haircuts that heavily emphasized the use of a straight razor. It was a barbershop of three chairs in total, so he had to share one chair with another barber. His name was Rafael; he had a funny tradition, every time he got a $5 tip he would make bachata moves in front of everyone while holding the bill in his hands. Semion fell in with Latin culture! It was in that specific barbershop where he was introduced to tequila, upbeat Latin music, barbershop jokes, and salsa dancing. After three months, another barber was hired and that same night, the boss handed Semion an envelope with his last paycheck and told him “good luck”. Semion asked him for a reason for being let go so abruptly, and the response was that the new employee paid him for the job. Another lesson learned.

Later on, a relative found Semion a job at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn at the center of the Russian community, yet under Indian ownership. The schedule was from 9 am to 9 pm, and in that 12-hour window, he only did four haircuts with no hourly pay and no opportunity to build clientele; so, he left the job just in four days.

After multiple applications and a poor success rate of finding a decent working environment, Semion sought out for another opportunity. With his father, the two went to visit a family friend in Queens who owned a restaurant. While exchanging in a conversation, one of the restaurant’s customers overheard some of the topics discussed. The customer quickly offered Semion help with completing an application for a new job. After a brief discussion, Semion introduced himself with his last name. Once the customer heard that his last name was Kikirov, he was overjoyed with the coincidence immediately asking who was David Kikirov (you can see him on one of the posters at the barbershop) to him. Suprised, Semion responded that he was his uncle. Astonished by the relationship, the customer told Semion to forget about the application because he wanted him to come every Sunday to learn the barbering business from him at the barbershop he worked at! That stranger at the restaurant (Yan Chulpaev) was the student of David Kikirov, and now he decided to return the favor. Little did Semion know that Yan was a true legend at the New York’s and perhaps world’s largest barbershop, Astor Place (Short Clip).

Astor Place, a three-story barbershop with 120 barbers, was known for its diversity, barbers from all the corners of the world worked there you could hear the variety of languages. The barbershop where celebrities got their haircuts, where barbers could do 3 minutes zero fades with just one clipper, where barbers had to wait in year-long lines to get a job there. It was Ivy-League School of barbers where legends were made. Now in a strange turn of events, it was within grasp.

For the previous post: Post #2: Cultural Shock – Do you speak English?!

In our next post, we will write about Semion’s experiences at the Astor Place.