August Pingpank Barbers at 413 Bleecker Street by Berenice Abbot

The number 413 will always be special to me. It was at 413 Bleecker Street—in the Summer of 1995—that LEO Design was born.  We opened our doors in August (naturally, during the sun sign LEO) at a time when Bleecker Street still teemed with interesting, unusual and creative Mom & Pop shops. This storefront was our den for 15 years. During that time, we saw the street change—and we pined as the small and unique stores were replaced by large corporate-owned chainstores (many of which have since left when they realized that their sales did not justify the inflated rents). In 2010, it was our turn; we were booted-out and replaced by a large, corporate-owned, blue chip "brand." Needless to say, they paid the landlady a lot more money than I could.

Perhaps unwelcome change has been a recurring theme at 413 Bleecker—as it has been in New York City. Shown here, a 1938 photo taken of my old store front (long before I was born). During the Depression, photographer Berenice Abbott was commissioned to shoot pictures of "Changing New York" by the Federal Art Project (thank you, FDR!). One photo she took was of August Pingpank's barber shop at 413 Bleecker. Pingpank, at 87, was the oldest barber in New York City. While Abbott was shooting, the elderly barber began complaining that too many men were now shaving at home—thanks to that new invention, the safety razor.  Pingpank expected he'd have to retire soon. I find myself wondering two things: first, what did his customers think, reclined (and helpless) in his barber chair, as an 87 year old man approached their throats with an 8 inch straight razor, and second, how much did he pay in rent?


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com)

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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