The interior of the Paul Mole barber shop is a scene cropped from a silent movie; it takes you back to the good old days.
The decorations are simple yet elegant—everything inside the shop, at Lexington Ave. and 74th Street, seems to be wooden: the counter, the dividers, the wall full of framed black-and-white photos and the shelf displaying different kinds of shave brushes. In the far end of the store there is a white hobbyhorse under an arch—it might well be the same one you rode on when you were a child.
Amid the jazzy tunes are the clickety-clacking of scissors and the booming of hairdryers, but somehow, it feels quiet in here.
The philosophy of the barbershop, as reiterated by the current owner Adrian Wood, is its perseverance of all things old school: from the appearance to the service, from the rapport between customers and barbers to their lifelong friendships.
“It’s a very simple idea, we take care of the customers and give them what they want,” said Wood, who took over the business in 1973. “We do haircut, shaving, gentleman’s manicure, and we are specialized in hair coloring.” Beyond these, they try to provide any service to meet the customers’ needs. “Like that gentleman over their, he doesn’t like the color of his $4,000 shoes so we are changing the color for him; we’ll also get them shined,” said Wood. “It’s all about their satisfaction.”
“We serve the tycoons of Upper East Side and their children, we don’t look for new customers and we don’t look for business outside the neighborhood,” Wood said with poise and confidence. “But we maintain a sensible price: $36 for a haircut now.”
That consistency, it turns out, is what keeps drawing customers to the place. “I don’t like to change, that’s why I like that everything’s always the same here, it makes me feel very comfortable,” said 71-year-old Abe Jacob, who has been a customer of Paul Mole for more than 20 years. “Most importantly, their haircut is very good.”
Jacob’s barber is 40-year-old Alex Pinkhasov. Prior to settling in New York and becoming a barber 18 years ago, Alex was a tailor in Russia. “Both professions require extreme patience”, said Pinkhasov.
Like every other barber in Paul Mole, he sticks to only scissors and comb when cutting hair.
“I’ve worked for a couple of barbershops in New York but nowhere is like this one,” said Pinkhasov. “This place is more than just a barbershop, it’s an institution. We don’t just cut hair; we create images.”
Pinkhasov describes his customers as another perk of the job. “They are refined and well-educated, they talk about books they read and people they meet,” said Pinkhasov. “I learn life from them.”