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Making It | Igor Iskiyev of Igor’s Clean Cuts - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


Making It | Igor Iskiyev of Igor’s Clean Cuts


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For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here’s one of them: Igor’s Clean Cuts.

Igor Iskiyev, Imanuel (Manny) Ibragimov of Igor's Clean CutsShira Levine Igor Iskiyev tends to a customer while Imanuel (Manny) Ibragimov looks on.


Five years ago Igor Iskiyev left his gig cutting hair at Neighborhood Barber on East Ninth Street and became commissar of his own chop shop at 20 First Avenue. The Azerbaijan native had dabbled with hair-cutting back home after serving as an anti-aircraft gunman. Igor’s reputation for detail and perfection precedes him: good Yelp reviews, affordable prices ($15 for a haircut, $15 for a shave) and, let’s face it, the occasional offer of a beer have been key to his success. The Local recently spoke with Mr. Iskiyev and his right-hand man, Imanuel (Manny) Ibragimov about Mr. Iskiyev’s decision to go solo and his distaste for small talk.

Q.

How is business?

A.

Igor: Right now it is slow, but not very bad. It was not good in 2008. Customers didn’t come as much. Some moved because they couldn’t afford to stay. We didn’t see many of our old customers for a while.

Q.

Your customers say you give an exceptional shave, what’s key to a good shave and cut here?

A.

Manny: You won’t ever get cut here. There’s never blood. Here people will come in because of the talent and the type of service we offer. You get a scalp and facial massage, you get a great shave, and you get a couple of hot towels.

Q.

You are a many of few words, Igor. Most people come to a barbershop to talk.

A.

Igor: Some people just talk too much in this business. We talk, but we have to focus on detail for a good haircut, a good shave. I don’t want to make too much talk. I like to keep it simple and just do it.

Q.

How have you expanded your business and kept up with the higher price of everything?

A.

Igor: We use American Crew products and now we are selling it. Our prices had to go up a little bit, a dollar or two for everything.

Q.

How is your rent?

A.

Igor: It is not bad, but it is not good. It goes up five to ten percent each year. I will be OK and I will stay. I have like four more years on the lease.

Q.

First Avenue in front of your store has a lot of bad construction right now. The road is all ripped up. How is that affecting your business?

A.

Igor: This is a good location. People walk by and they come in a lot. The road is bad. It’s not good for my business. I think sometimes maybe we lose 50 percent of business between that and the 2008 economy. But this is temporary. The construction will not be here long. It bothers me, but it’s not killing the business.

Q.

Have you shaved or cut any celebrity hair?

A.

Manny: Sean Paul was here.

Igor: No, his bodyguard.

Manny: Sean Paul was across the street and his bodyguard came here. A lot of actors have come here.

Igor: That actor with the blonde curls [Matthew McConaughey] came for a shave. He comes here for a shave a lot. Once I cut his hair. But he just comes for shave.

Q.

What hairstyle do people ask for most?

A.

Manny: They mostly come for spiky-messy. We do it all. Also fades, flat tops, classic cuts, trims.

Igor: We got pictures on the wall; they like David Beckham.

Q.

Do you ever get any women in here?

A.

Igor: Some women come for the short haircuts; older ladies, and some friends and family. My aunts and cousins come here.

Q.

What have you done lately to modernize your business?

A.

Igor: I changed the benches. Before there were chairs and now we have benches. We have lots of men’s magazines to make the customer happy too. They like that.

Q.

What’s your record for haircuts and shaves?

A.

Igor: Average is 40 people a day. Sixty is my record.