New Barber In Crown Heights Wants To Be A ‘Community Center’

New Barber In Crown Heights Wants To Be A ‘Community Center’

CROWN HEIGHTS — There are 49 days between Passover and Shavuot when observing Jews are not allowed to groom their hair. So chances are Levi Aronow, a new orthodox-Jewish barber in Crown Heights, is going to have a record month this June.

Levi Aronow at work at ( ) Barbershop. (Photo: Instagram of The Railroad Barber)
Levi Aronow at work at ( ) Barbershop. (Photo: Instagram of The Railroad Barber)

The Railroad Barber at 409 Troy Avenue is one of two new small businesses to open along the otherwise retail-starved corridor. Aronow officially opened his doors on April 7 and by the week ahead of Passover, the 23-year-old had to turn customers away.

“I had to turn 30 to 40 people away,” Aronow said.

The trained barber moved to Crown Heights at age 9 from Postville, IA, home of the now-bankrupt kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant of Sholom Rubashkin, Agriprocessors. By age 16,  Aronow was already cutting hair at his Yeshiva to earn extra money.

“I started cutting hair because my parents couldn’t give me an allowance,” he said, noting he’s one of 8 children.

After four months at the American Barber Institute, when he turned 21, Aronow snagged his first job at a Brooklyn barbershop. But after a year, he took his barber skills on the road before going into business for himself.

The Spot

Every nook of the 470 sq, ft. space has been carefully planned out. Aronow, and his mother drove seven hours each way to pick up two yellow, suede armchairs from Yorktown, VA.  The vintage-like barber chairs were an eBay grab, and all of it ties into the large vintage entry door he scored for free.

The Railroad Barber (Photo: Kadia Goba/Bklyner)
The Railroad Barber (Photo: Kadia Goba/Bklyner)

“I wanted this place to feel like your grandmother’s living room,” he said. “You always feel at home there.”

Prices start at $20 and can go as high as $60 for children and adults. Each adult patron receives a hot towel, a razor neck shave, a complimentary beer and water.

“We’re trying to put that man back in gentleman,” he said. “I just want people to walk out and feel amazing.”

While Aronow knows how to curl and gel payot (the Hebrew word for sidelocks) he says he’s versed in cutting African- and Asian-American hair as well.

“I find it really cool that I can associate myself with many other cultures and not just what I grew up with,” he said.

There are three work stations and the master barber is currently looking to fill two vacancies with commission-based salary. He didn’t hesitate when asked if he’s open to hiring non-Jewish barbers.

“I want to create a place that’s diverse,” Aronow said. “If you go back in time, the barbershop is a community center. People come here to unwind and relax.”