This is a second part follow up to our mention in DNAInfo.com. Q&A by lead stylist of the West Village hair salon, Seagull, Shaun SureThing and Johanna Fateman. Scroll down for the original post after the Q&A of Riot Grrrl Pioneer Fights to Keep Salon Amid Skyrocketing Rents.
DNAinfo New York sat down with Fateman and Cottle to talk about their fight to stay in the West Village despite sky-rocketing rents, how they've seen the neighborhood and the city change around them and what it means to run a feminist hair salon.
Talk about your commitment to staying in the neighborhood.
JF: It’s sort of ridiculous to talk about gentrification in this neighborhood anymore because it’s, like, the most expensive neighborhood in the city. But there’s this strange paradox where local independently owned businesses are why people want to live in the West Village, because there is McNulty’s [Tea & Coffee] and Seagull. So we’re trying to stay here and find a business model that works, that’s true to who we are but also can work in this climate. We have to constantly kind of go back to square one and be like, how can this work? How can we preserve the legacy of Seagull and its connection to gay liberation in this neighborhood and make something that can generate enough revenue to stay here? It hasn’t always been easy.
SC: I’m so proud that we are a business that has been here since 1971. Gentrification is behind us, urban blight is happening and we’ve managed to find a weird hole and dig ourselves into it, and we’ve managed to make it a really glamorous spot.
How has the neighborhood changed around you?
JF: I feel a lot of sadness to see these ground floor spaces taken up by these huge bank lobbies and by CVS. It just seems like the square footage is exorbitant and it really affects — the way we walk through this neighborhood is different. In that sense I was sad to leave the ground floor. There was something nice about having the storefront. But at least we’re still here.
SC: The other thing that’s sad that’s happening in this neighborhood is that landlords are like, "You can’t afford it, I want $25,000 a month" and then it just sits empty. It’s like, "Oh, congratulations on the huge profit you’re making."
JF: It changed too with the outrage of people who have bought into these luxury buildings, their outrage at the queer youth populations and communities that still hang out on Christopher Street and the Christopher Street piers and still have that as kind of a citywide destination for hanging out. We’ve had some arguments with people about that.
SC: I think the neighborhood is definitely less queer or the queers here are older. But because the queers haven’t died off there's some kind of weird bohemian energy hanging in the air still. I don’t know if it’s the ghost of HIV past or if it’s just like this neighborhood was so much entrenched with that spirit that no matter who moves here it still sort of feels that way.
OMG I was SUPER STOKED when I found out that my very favorite news source DNAInfo.com was interested in doing a story on the history of Seagull: how we've transformed over the decades to bend to the changing will of the West Village while retaining a core, queer feminist integrity. My very favorite journalist for DNA Danielle Tcholakian sat down with Johanna and I to dish about West Village post-gentrification, shuttered storefronts and urban blight, body images in popular culture, and how we've managed to keep a beauty salon infused with our DIY punk rock spirit. You can read the whole thing HERE: Riot Grrrl Pioneer Fights to Keep Salon in Village Amid Skyrocketing Rents. This is a short excerpt from the article: