Getting By: Karho Leung of Barbershop ‘12 Pell’
In our new series “Getting By,” Lower East Side residents and business owners share how they’re navigating the new normal of pandemic times. Our first outing is with Karho Leung of barbershop and events space, 12 Pell.
Journal Entry: April 22, 2019 (Pre-Covid Reflections)
It’s 6:45 pm, and I am finally sitting down for my first meal of the day. My childhood friend from the neighborhood blesses me with a rice box and I take a seat on the stoop to chow down. Before getting a second bite in, the owner of the massage spa next door comes out with her son and we exchange smiles – she then encourages him to say hi since her English is limited. As I am still chewing, the owner of Juicy Spot, a bubble tea shop down the block, walks by and heckles me for eating outside. I jokingly say that “life is hard,” and in the distance someone remarks “that isn’t suffering, that is enjoyment [to eat outside].” I chuckle and look across the street to see it’s one of the guys from Columbus park, a local “street workout” park where all the kids gather. With all the banter, I look up and say to one of our stylists chilling on the sidelines: “Haha, this is what it’s like to really be part of the community. It’s great. Kinda like when you watch TVB [Asian dramas] and they show what it means to be a Kai Fong (local).”
As [the owner of] a local barbershop that houses community, moments like this are the reason why I hustle and make the journey worth it.
Journal Entry: July 29, 2020 (Post-Covid Reflections)
As tough as things are right now for our shop, it is just as tough for every small business out there. So, in our reflection, we wanted to offer our thoughts as a PSA. As the city reopens, let us not forget the lessons we learned when we were buried at home. Moments where we were reminded of our abundance and held closely onto what mattered. For once in our lives, the programming stopped and the best part of the day was staying connected with the people you love. A reminder of what makes us human and what gives us purpose – not the money, not the materials, not the glory, but the impact we have on each other and the simple things that make us smile. Take care of your family, your friends, your neighbor, your barber who missed more [you] than your girlfriend – haha you get the point. Make sure you make your time and money count and do so consciously because someone out there is counting on you. [Amazon] Prime is always clutch, but the deli you grab a hamburger from with curly fries at 3:00 am in the morning, as you stumble in after a night of too many drinks, is more clutch.
So, please spend local and help keep small businesses alive. Support your friends and don’t ask for discounts, and most importantly invest in those that have always invested in you.
Remember 2020 not as the year where we lost everything but the year we rediscovered everything we have.
Get in touch to submit your story for “Getting By.”