Patsy’s Historic Barber Shop Approaches a Crossroads

ALBANY – Surrounded by renovation scaffolding, Patsy’s hair salon is not visible. But it’s a true city landmark, operating continuously at 3 Howard St. since 1930.

The establishment has changed hands only three times since then and the current owner, local entrepreneur William “Tragedy” Yager hopes to pass it on to his son, who works there alongside other elite barbers.

On Friday, Patsy’s heritage was added to the state’s Historic Business Preservation Registry, which aims to salute long-standing local businesses that have helped anchor their respective communities.

“I have a special love for this place,” Yager said Friday as local politicians rallied to recognize the historic designation.

The problem is that Patsy’s may not be there for very long. They currently operate without a lease, and Yager said the building’s owner, Harmony Group developer Yuri Kaufman, plans to turn much of the 15-story building from an office tower into luxury apartments.

While Patsy’s address is on Howard Street, the business is in the 90 State Street office building.

Like other downtown office buildings, tenants have been slow to return after the pandemic sent people home two years ago. At the same time, demand is high for downtown apartments, with 1,000 new units coming online in recent years and an occupancy rate of 97%, said Georgette Steffens, executive director of Downtown Albany Business Improvement. District.

Patsy’s possible departure from its long-term berth illustrates the challenges and potential conflicts in the endless battle to maintain the viability of downtown Albany. As attention turns to residential demand, some businesses are wondering where they fit in this new order.

The interior of the shop is physically unchanged from the 1920s with mahogany paneling, tiled flooring and the original bronze cash register (next to the laptop which is actually used to collect payments) .

But Yager was told he might move in order to fit the apartment plan, known as Abraxas at 90 State Street.

He said Kaufman was a good owner who helped him through the worst of the pandemic when the store was closed.

And he realizes that building owners need to go where the market takes them. “The owners have to change if they want to stay in business,” Yager said, adding that many lawyers and lobbyists who were in the building left during COVID and did not return.

He hopes the hair salon is seen as part of the residential mix, as tenants are always in need of haircuts.

However, Yager has already learned that the tattoo parlor he owns next door, Modern Body Art, is due to leave and will soon be moving to 54 North Pearl St., where a grocery store has come and gone in recent years.

Kaufman was unreachable on Friday.

Certainly, apartment developments and the businesses that service them have created conflict before.

The operators of Surpass Chemical, a chemical distributor in the Warehouse District, for example, went to court earlier this year over parking spaces given to neighboring Druthers Brewing Co. Surpass argues it is too close to ‘an industrial scale that they use for trucks.

The Warehouse District, north of downtown, is also seeing an influx of apartment development, including a transformation of the former furniture store Huck Finn’s Warehouse into residences.

Politicians who came to Patsy’s house on Friday to celebrate her joining the historic register said they recognized her importance.

“These are the anchors of our communities,” said Democratic Congresswoman Patricia Fahy, who named Patsy’s to the register.

It’s unclear whether lawmakers and politicians could or would enter into a tenant-landlord discussion. And Yager pointed out that it’s still unclear what will happen to his barbershop space. Additionally, the State Historical Register is an honorary designation that offers no real tax or legal benefit.

And on Friday, the focus was on celebrating the store’s history and longevity.

Patrons like Quentin Lott, who at 25 has been coming for 20, streamed an outing, and Yager, who has a long gray beard and tattooed bald head, held court as a Frank Sinatra track played in the background (Sometimes you hear Slayer and Motorhead, he confided).

He explained how seven governors from Thomas E. Dewey to George Pataki and countless legislators have been customers, since the early days when Pasquale Pugliese, aka Patsy, first opened his doors.

His great-grandfather worked there, he added.

He has a regular customer who is 92 – when he shows up, Yager parks his car for him.

“It’s,” Fahy said, “it’s a legacy business.”

[email protected] 518 454 5758 @RickKarlinTU

David H. Henry