When I was little my dad doubled as my hair guy. He would lay down newspaper in our kitchen, set up a collapsible stepping stool, pull out an ancient-looking hair cutting kit he had acquired at some point, and prop me up under a large sheet. He would then pull out a razor and cutting shears from the faded retro-green cardboard box and get to work.
Somewhere in between ages four and five he accidentally did something and I became convinced that he had cut a chunk out of my ear (to this day he contends that he did not -- I am not so sure of this, even though my ears are both intact) so from that day forward I refused to let him touch my hair and insisted that my parents take me to a shop.
I was not an easy child to raise.
Twenty years later, I am still fussy about who cuts my hair. After a string of bad barbers growing up, the magic of Yelp brought me to Capsule Barbershop where I met Chris Ulibas who knew what he was doing, and still does to this day. After leaving Capsule I followed him to his living room and then to his newest endeavor, The Backhaus.
Situated just south of KTown on Pico, The Backhaus raises an interesting question in the current climate of hyper-gentrification across the city. Opening just weeks after no one cried over the Da Vinci inferno downtown (reference point here), The Backhaus is arguably one of the first trendy spots to hit mid-Pico in the way that Wurstkuche ushered in The Pie Hole, Umami, and a host of other spots that brought a more affluent clientele to drive up housing in the Arts District and (most regrettably) Little Tokyo.
But Chris is not some random dude with capital behind him. Chris is Chris, the barber, the electrician, the designer, the accountant, the office manager, the interior decorator, the event planner, so on and so on. He is a self-made businessman. I don't know what his hopes and dreams are for the block, but I don't think he intends to drive up property prices in an effort to appreciate.
So at what point do we label our Patient 0? As Asian American folks who are increasingly building businesses of our own that appeal to a wider audience and more affluent swath, when do we have to start considering our own roles as part of this wave of gentrification even when we are, ourselves, born/raised Angelenos (which I am not) looking to contribute to this amazing cluster of a city?
Because it took me way too long to find this dude and I'm not about to find another place for my hair. So let's have this conversation now, shall we? Supercuts is not an option.