Tucked at the bottom of a building on Grove Street, the Whittemore House salon can be easy to miss—even when you know what you're looking for, you might not notice the place until a well-coifed West Villager strolls out the door. Once inside, what you will notice is how familiar the place feels: exposed brick walls, the vintage painting over the fireplace, a time-worn bar that sits at the salon's center.
Everything looks like it has a story to tell, but here's the truth—it's all new. Says Victoria Hunter, who owns the salon with partner and fellow Bumble & Bumble alum Larry Raspanti, "We had to build everything from scratch! The exposed brick walls? Those bricks had to be laid. The wooden floor you see used to be concrete. That bar was built especially for us."
When Victoria and Larry decided to open a salon, they knew they wanted a place with history and character. They found it in 45 Grove: The salon sits directly across from an entrance (presently padlocked) to the Underground Railroad; John Wilkes Booth planned the assassination of President Lincoln in the same building, which is itself one of the three oldest in Manhattan. There was even a New York Times piece written about the place last year.
"It's pretty wild. You don't even know how much back and forth you have to go through to build a place—especially in a building like this one," says Victoria. She pointed to an arch that led to the back room: "Knocking down the wall to create this only happened after we got through 200 permit objections."
Open since May, the salon's been attracting a diverse array of clientele: neighborhood regulars, tourists who've seen the salon in a magazine, and just the occasional passerby who's intrigued by the space. An area in the salon dedicated especially to men is planned after the new year, but for now, feel free to stop by and get your hair cut by Larry, who first got into hairstyling as a teenager cutting and bleaching his friends' hair in his garage (don't worry, he's licensed). His best advice for guys trying to get the right cut? "Just be true to yourself. Don't tell a hairstylist you want to be a rocker on the weekends, but Don Draper for work. Know your identity, and follow through with it."
Cuts start at $90, which may run you a bit more than a regular barbershop, but these guys have the styling cred to back it up; compared with high-end salons that can charge you up to half a grand, it's almost a bargain.
By: Jason Chen