After 21 years in business, a downtown fixture of men’s haircutting, styling, and shaving closed its doors on August 26. Members Only Barber Shop proprietor Henry Franco said a recent rent hike at his 190-square-foot shop on East Victoria Street is to blame.
A notice of the monthly jump — from $695 to $1,000, plus an additional $200 for building insurance and maintenance — arrived in late July, slipped beneath the door of his shop. Franco said he wanted to negotiate but was unable to reach the building’s new landlord, Ray Mahboob, who bought it in May as part of a six-property portfolio consisting of two office buildings and four apartments complexes. As part of the package, Mahboob paid $2.4 million for the 27-27 ½ East Victoria Street property.
“Right now I’m kinda in limbo,” said Franco, who didn’t give Mahboob a written 30-day notice of his departure. “It’s a heartbreaker. A lot of businesses are being displaced downtown. It’s ripping the fiber out of Santa Barbara.”
Mahboob — who also recently purchased the Funk Zone building home to the Santa Barbara Surfing Museum for $5.6 million in cash — explained that the 19 businesses at 27-27 ½ East Victoria Street have been paying below-market rent over the years. “This [increase] is just catch-up,” he said. “We tried to come up with a number that would be fair and that would make [tenants] stay.” He said that only two businesses are leaving.
Mahboob added that with Franco’s space there seems to have been some confusion on utility expenses, which would’ve affected the new asking price. “I don’t want him to leave,” he said. “If you talk to him, tell him to come back.”
By late afternoon last Friday, however, Franco had already cleared out. He’s also already looked at a new location. In the meantime, he’ll meet with clients on a pop-up basis at Amigos Haircutting on De la Vina, or Danny’s Custom Styling on upper State, both of which can offer him an open chair on Mondays. The 75-year-old Franco said he has about 175 steady customers, “just enough to keep an old man busy.”
[Correction: The square footage of the barber shop is 190, not 115 as originally reported.]