‘From the Gegent’ is a series of articles featuring businesses, services and the people behind them in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Presented by Mica Soffer, owner and publisher of community news service COLlive.com and neighborhood directory gegent.com:
Levi Aronov is the newest and possibly youngest entrepreneur in Crown Heights to open a storefront store in the Brooklyn neighborhood that is home to a large population of Chabad Chassidim and Lubavitch World Headquarters.
Proudly sporting a full black beard himself, the 24-year-old is becoming known as the Railroad Barber, which is the name of the new barbershop he recently opened on Troy Avenue.
Typically opening his door at 10:00 AM, Aronov spends the day conversing with customers, as he helps many of them retain their distinctive facial look with payos (sidelocks) and a beard.
But working with a pair of scissors and a clipper in hand isn’t a new task for this native of Postville. At the age of 16, Aronov cut the hair of his classmates while learning in Chabad Yeshivos in Monsey and Miami. He did a fine job, and bochurim kept coming back, earning him useful pocket-money.
Years after graduating Yeshiva, Aronov tried his hand at other industries like real estate and car leasing and ended up one day pondering his future with minus $41 in his bank account. He soon realized that his best bet would be to go to school for hair cutting and “do it right.”
At the age of 20, Aronov enrolled in Tribeca Barber School, which led to jobs at 2 different barbershops. He soon began doing house-call hair cuts for customers, doing about 500 appointments in one year, he says.
His goal was to open a barbershop, and he realized that goal even earlier than planned.
With the assistance of his mother (who is very handy, he notes), Aronov opened his own barbershop just before Pesach promising his clients the same pleasant and relaxing experience he offered them when he visited their home or office.
The shop feels like you are in your grandmother’s living room, with genuine antiques from various states from Maryland to New Jersey lining the walls, and stuffed soft couches and armchairs conducive to a good and comforting chat.
“I wanted a place with an older feel, where people could relax and feel comfortable,” Aronov told COLlive.com. “People were going out of Crown Heights for this type of experience, and I wanted to offer this service in the neighborhood.”
Aronov makes it a point to note that he has great respect for the longtime barbers on Kingston Avenue “who have been doing this forever,” he says.
He specializes in personal attention and extra time given to each customer.
“I take pride in my work. When the customer walks out of here, it’s my name on that cut,” Aronov says. “People always get compliments on my haircuts, because I spend the time on each one,” he says.
He highly recommends making an appointment, since walk-in appointments at his shop are rarely available, due to the demand.
“I take the time to give a pleasant, calm experience to my customers, and so the price is a little higher, but people really appreciate the personalized service,” he says. “Instead of waiting on a long line outside the shop, it’s best to make an appointment and come in just for that.”
People tend to get very comfortable while sitting in the barber’s chair, and love to talk about what’s going on in their lives, so Aronov is mulling an idea to launch a podcast featuring conversations with customers called Conversations in the Barber Chair. “It will be an organic conversation, about many different topics – depending on who the customer is,” he says.
And if you think the barbershop is just for the adult crowd, Aronov points out that 20 to 30 percent of his customers are children.
“The kids need to feel safe and learn that a haircut doesn’t have to be scary,” he says. “With just some patience you can get a child to be ok with sitting down in the chair and get a haircut without all the drama and crying.”
With the Three Weeks now over, when haircuts are not taken in mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem, Aronov is back in the shop cementing his reputation as the Railroad Barber.