By Francesca Moisin
Two friends grew up on the outskirts of L.A. in the late 1980s. One was a hairdresser. The other, inspired by her pro pal, aspired to be the same. But life is full of unexpected twists. “I moved to Queens in 1991 and began working at Giorgio’s salon,” says Tonia Bashan. “While my more experienced friend ended up changing career course entirely.”
Bashan’s relocation proved fortuitous for more than one reason. While simultaneously obtaining her hair license in Astoria, she crossed paths with another life-altering individual. “I met my husband in beauty school—the last place you’d expect to find a straight guy!” she says. “We liked each other right away.” Abraham, a longtime Greenpoint resident, introduced his future wife the neighborhood to which she instantly took a shine. “It was full of young people pursuing interesting projects, going out and having a good time,” Bashan explains. He was also the one to find the vacant space at 1021 Manhattan Avenue.
It had been a Polish meat market in the 1960s, with hangers and hooks and a locker in back for smoking kielbasa. In the ’80s, it morphed into a store selling West Indian provisions, before Tonia and Abraham took ownership in 1993 and transformed it to New York Image Salon. They installed eight Formica stations. “The look was very ’90s,” laughs Bashan. A second renovation expanded the space to its current 2,300 square feet, turning the ground level into an accessories (purses, perfume, leggings, leotards, hats) boutique and modernizing the mezzanine salon with granite floors and soaring ceilings. “Our exterior can be deceptive,” says Bashan. “New clients don’t expect to find this much going on when they step inside.”
Along with first-time customers, there are also scores of loyal regulars, who for two decades have enjoyed cuts, color, and special-occasion up-dos. “We’ll work on the tresses of a mom, her daughter, and now we’re even getting grandkids,” marvels Bashan. “Usually when people come to us, they stay.” This is due in part to the fair fares. Unlike other chop-shops, New York Image Salon doesn’t subscribe to gender pricing. Many women sport short mops, while some men prefer to grow long locks, so all consultations are based on hair length, thickness, and time needed to style. But greater credit goes to Tonia herself, whose favorite part of the job is being granted access to people’s lives, listening to the unique stories each one has to tell.
The neighborhood has changed since she arrived. Once rough around the edges, with little foot traffic on Manhattan Avenue, entrepreneurs have recently invested in restaurants, bars, and boutiques. Streets look nicer as a result of this gentrification, and the Bashan’s kids— 20-year-old son Shakil, 14-year-old daughter Fareema, and their younger sister, 6-year-old Khadija—have more entertainment options. But there is a downside. Business costs have gone up, and Tonia occasionally worries about getting priced out. Yet the more things change, the more they have a way of staying the same. “Suddenly I’m seeing the asymmetrical cuts and funky colors I started with in the late ’80s and ’90s,” Bashan muses. Some institutions are timeless.
New York Image Salon
1021 Manhattan Ave
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