Barber wars: New Generation vs. Hair Xpress
Competition is a natural part of life. It is a contest between individuals and groups for rewards that cannot, and will not, be divided and shared equally.
Competition within business historically has been the effort of two or more parties through the process of independent action striving to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms.
When businesses are faced with competition, the textbook strategy is to allocate productive resources to their most highly valued uses and to develop new products, services and technologies all the while leading to lower product prices for the consumer and higher levels of efficiency for the business. In theory, perfect competition is what it says it is: perfect. However, in the real world, it’s not all peaches and cream.
Arthur Rubinov and Igor Pinhasov first met at Parts Barbershop in Long Island a few years ago. Both being qualified barbers; Pinhasov was already an employee at Parts Barbershop before Rubinov secured a job there.
“He was very unhappy from the beginning about the money he was getting for his haircuts,” Pinhasov said. “Five or six dollars we were charging and
he always felt like it wasn’t enough. Even though we had a lot of volume, he wanted to charge more. After 10 months he left and he came here to set up his own business, a place where there was no competition so he could charge whatever he wanted.”
A few years ago, Rubinov rented the first floor of a building and set up what is now New Generation Unisex Hairstyling, located at 167-02 Union Turnpike
in Flushing. New Generations quickly identified and styled itself within the family of its largest customer base: St. John’s University students.
Placards, signs and banners adorn both the inside and outside of New Generation, over the windows and along the walls. The Facebook page for New Generation currently has the St. John’s University logo stamped over it with the phrase, “We welcome St. John’s University,” highlighting the direct marketing strategy employed. Based on its location though, you would expect nothing else. For awhile, all was good; haircuts were given, conversations were had, legal tender was exchanged and New Generation became the only option for many St. John’s students when it came to their hair.
However, 10 months ago, Pinhasov and Rubinov were reunited once again when Pinhasov’s uncle found what he believed was the ideal spot for his barbershop, named Hair Xpress Salon, located at 168-8 Union Turnpike, about 50 yards down the road from New Generation. The difference was that Hair Xpress charged significantly less than its close-by counterpart.
“If you want a bad haircut you can go to Hair Xpress,” Rubinov said. “I mean how would you feel, if you had an established business, an established
business practice and then all of a sudden someone just comes along, copies everything you’ve done and cuts your prices in half,” he continued. “I worked hard for several years, I always took pride in my work but then he comes and changes everything.”
Rubinov says he used to employ three full-time barbers and four part-time stylists. Now, he says he can only afford
to employ two barbers and one stylist. While the business end is suffering, he refuses to lie down and roll over. Photos of what he claims to be
below average haircuts given at Hair Xpress are ready and laminated, to be shown to anyone who walks into New Generation. Signs that loudly proclaim “We fix $6.99 haircuts! Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations,” have been put up by New Generation.
“Arthur doesn’t want to speak to me at all,” Pinhasov said. “I’ve tried to talk to him, I even tried to say hello to him but he just ignored me. Those photos of the bad haircuts given here aren’t real. He faked those photos by giving a bad haircut to people then pretending to fix it.”
According to Pinsahov, since New Generation opened, the prices have risen from $10 to $14.
“Before we came here he was always raising his price from $10 to $12 to $14,” Pinsahov said. “Now he’s just mad because we only charge $7 and he
charges double that. That’s why people are coming to us, even Mary Carnesecca came in here with her clients, now would she do that if we weren’t just as good or even better than him?”
While both sides are not happy with each other’s business practices, the students are the ones who make the final call on who to believe and who to give their business to.
“I’ve been going to New Generation since September of my freshman year,” junior Quinn Rochford said. “Though the price is higher than it is down the block, I keep going. Just as it is with any consumer product, where we get our hair cut is about loyalty.”
Not everyone is willing to pay more money, though.
“It’s a full haircut for half the price,” junior Bryan Wynne said. “Hair Xpress gets me in and out faster too.”
For now, the two establishments continue to fight it out. The only true solution will come when the St. John’s community decides which one
provides the best combination of quality and price in order for them to continue to thrive.
-Additional reporting by Kieran Lynch, Features Editor