- September 5, 2021
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From the outside, Juan’s looks like a typical New York City barbershop, but step inside and you might be surprised to see who’s behind the chair.
"Cutting hair is my passion. I enjoy styling the hair and touching the hair. I like to see people happy and approval,” said Ayumi Tabar, who is better known as "Amy the Barber." She’s been working at the Sunnyside, Queens barbershop for two years. She is the only female barber at Juan’s.
Barbershops are changing, but they are still dominated by men. Twenty years ago, only 18% of America’s barbers were women. Today, it’s about 30%.
Amy the Barber also stands out because she is from Yamaguchi, Japan, a rural prefecture outside of Hiroshima. Juan’s owner and the other barbers are from Ecuador.
“They teach me Spanish. And I’m learning, little by little,” Tabar said.
It’s an unusual mash-up of cultures that might seem out of place, except in Queens, one of the most diverse counties in America.
“This is my home,” Tabar said.
When NY1 stopped by, Tabar was finishing up a haircut on a regular, Juan Carlos Perez. He lives in Sunnyside, but is originally from outside of Mexico City.
“She’s very smart. And she has been learning English and Spanish at the same time. I admire her a lot for doing that,” Perez said.
Beyond learning new languages, she’s always working to perfect new techniques.
The pandemic brought her business to a halt last March.
“I didn’t want to just sit down, wait. I want to keep cutting every day,” Tabar said.
So she started cutting hair on her roof, with no extra charge for the skyline view.
“It was a wild time,” she said.
She’s thankful to be back in the shop now. She splits her time between Juan’s on Queens Boulevard and a Japanese salon in Manhattan. While business is better now, the pandemic still is taking a toll, particularly in Manhattan.
“It’s totally changed. We lost a lot of customers, they stop coming. And we are surviving. And we are struggling,” Tabar said.
But she’s hopeful. She’s looking to continue building her business, using social media to share her work.
“I know they can say this is the best haircut I have ever had, you’re a good barber. I like to hear that,” Tabar said.