Q&A: Tough financial times cut business at South L.A. hair salon

imageItzhak Nughadam, 64, owns Touch of Class beauty salon in the University Village Shopping Center. Nughadam chose this location 37 years ago because of the built-in student population, which once provided a steady stream of business. Since the recession hit, Nughadam saw his revenue plummet by as much as 30 percent.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Nughadam had two employees in the salon. One was busy cutting a man’s hair, while the other watched for potential customers from within. Nughadam took a smoke break.

Intersections South LA’s Raquel Estupinan caught up with Nughadam about his business, his customers and his determination to stay open despite challenging financial times.

Raquel Estupinan: How has the economy of the last few years affected your business?

Itzhak Nughadam: Terrible, terrible. I can’t even describe it. I’m just living day by day.

RE: What has been the hardest period?

IN: Ever since 2008 business is down. No up and down; it just keeps going down. Because I keep record and I see and I can’t even compare it to last year. Every year is bad since 2008. I can’t even match it; it just keeps going down.

RE: Did you need to get a loan, or were you able to get a loan?

IN: I might be able to get a loan. But paying it back, I don’t think I could pay it back, that’s why I don’t get it. It’s not a good idea at all, in my book.

RE: Are things looking any better now?

IN: I want to think that way, but I don’t see it really. If I say yes, I would lie. It’s not. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

imageRE: What factors contribute to how your business is doing?

IN: I guess the economy because basically we’re dealing with people—students, as a matter of fact. They would want to get a haircut every two to four weeks; now it goes to two to three months. No one gets coloring anymore. Color is the main money in this business.

RE: Does the beauty business do well only when the economy is doing well?

IN: Most definitely, yeah. People, they have to pay bills first before they can do their hair. As old as I am, I understand. People need money to do anything. That’s why business is down. It’s not only this area. Every area you look at, they’re in the same boat as I am. At least I could keep it going the last few years, so many people are out of business already. We’ll see what happens.

RE: How much is your rent?

IN: Almost $4,000 a month. I wrote a letter to the USC real estate agency to see what would happened if they could reduce the rent somehow.

RE: And have they responded?

IN: Not yet, no.

RE: What is keeping your business open?

IN: [I have to] pay bills and pay my house mortgage. That is [what] is the most important to me: bills. [It’s not] pleasure or anything like that. [It’s] just to live on, day by day, and to pay whatever I can.