Hollywood barbershop’s owner may face a sad parting

Jan Bruno cuts Carlos Gaivar's hair at her tiny one-chair shop at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood. Bruno has owned the shop for 23 years; the building's new owners have told her she must leave.
(Ariana van den Akker / Los Angeles Times)

The mirrors lining three walls of Jan Bruno’s tiny barbershop make it look as though it extends to infinity.

Too bad they can’t make its lease extend too.

The pint-sized shop has operated for six decades in a 13-by-5-foot storefront in the Taft Building at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

Bruno has owned the one-chair shop for 23 years, riding out the disruptions from the Metro Red Line subway’s construction in the mid-1990s and the development of the next-door W Hotel and Residences four years ago.

But as Hollywood rebounds, Bruno has been given her walking papers by the Taft Building’s new owners.

She’s been told she must shut her tiny shop in early August.

“I went through the whole Metro subway thing. I stuck it out and never got any help from the city,” Bruno said. “The construction of the W was horrible. I was just beginning to enjoy the fruits of my work and now this happens.”

The 12-story Taft Building, a Hollywood landmark since its construction in 1923, was bought seven months ago by New York-based DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners for $28 million.

The company, which buys and restores vintage properties, plans to spend $15 million retrofitting the building. Corey Mirman, a spokesman for DLJ, said retail tenants on the ground floor have to leave before the renovation begins.

The new owners are restoring the building’s historic Vine Street facade, Mirman said.

“Jan has been a good tenant and the new owners would be happy to discuss a new lease … when its leasing efforts resume after the completion of the restoration,” he said.

For now, Bruno said she was urgently searching for a new place.

“I’m too old to start over and too young to retire,” said the Eagle Rock resident.

Most of Bruno’s customers are men because there isn’t enough space to offer women services such as hair coloring. Haircuts start at $20. Bruno declined to disclose her monthly rent.

“I’m trying to call my customers and tell them what’s happening. I want to tell them I didn’t die; I’m being evicted,” she said.

Those who have had their hair cut by Bruno for decades say they hate to see the tiny shop closed.

“It’s too bad for Jan, and it’s too bad for the neighborhood. I get my Hollywood gossip from her. She’s like family,” said Greg Williams, a North Hollywood puppet designer and builder who is also a Hollywood historian. He began patronizing the shop in the 1980s when he operated a puppet studio in the building.

A shop customer for 30 years, television consultant Tim Baskerville stopped in shortly after Bruno was told she had to move.

“I used to be a tenant of the Taft Building and I feel a kinship with Hollywood,” said Baskerville, who travels from West Hills for his haircuts. “Jan’s a hard-working citizen; she certainly deserves a break.”

By Tuesday afternoon, Mirman said a “mutually beneficial” agreement between DLJ and Bruno could be in the works.

Said Bruno: “I don’t know yet. I haven’t heard anything today.”