$5 on LES Will Get You a Haircut, a Gluten-Free Cupcake or 25 Dumplings

By Serena Solomon on July 9, 2013 8:13am 

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 Depending on where you shop on the Lower East Side, a fiver plus a handful of change can get you a lot.
What $5 Plus Change Will Get You on the Lower East Side
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LOWER EAST SIDE — Depending on where you shop, a fiver plus a handful of change can get you a lot on the Lower East Side.

The melting pot of cultures — Chinese, Jewish, Latino and more — has generated a wide variety of businesses, from bargain hair salons offering $5 haircuts to artisanal cafes featuring $5.25 iced mocha coffees. With a range of price points, shops and restaurants in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood aim to serve the newer hipster and young-professional crowd, along with longtime locals.

Here's what $5 and change will buy you today on the Lower East Side:

Basic Haircut $5

Ting Ting Hair Salon at 302 Grand St. chops through about 50 customers each day, and a trim for short-haired adult customers costs only $5, according to licensed hairdresser of two years Yan Zatn.

"We are very straightforward here," said Zatn, who can get the job done in less than 10 minutes.

Kids can get an even cheaper makeover at $4 per cut in the tiny salon, which has been open for 10 years.

And forget going to Drybar for a $40 wash and blowout — Zatn and her team of five licensed hairdressers will do it for about $8.

"We don't advertise," she said. "These are all people from the neighborhood."

25 Pork and Chive Dumplings $5

Ten pork and chive dumplings go for just $2 at China North Dumpling, at 27 Essex St. between Hester and Grand streets, but a fiver will give you a meal for two, plus a few left over.

"We take less profit off each order so more people come," said Chen Jin Guo, 57, who opened the store eight years ago with his wife and offers 25 dumplings for $5. "We have a lot of returning customers."

His staff of five work long days to make the hundreds of dumplings, sesame pancakes and spring rolls that leave the store each day.

Gluten-Free Cupcake $4.95

Babycakes NYC bakery, at 248 Broome St., is the saving grace for the discerning dieter and allergy-stricken customer.

"Our cupcakes are gluten free, soy free and vegan," wrote the bakery’s general manager, Amy Lachenauer, of the business that opened in 2005. "We use only natural ingredients, no artificial colors or flavorings, and make everything in our own ovens in the New York location."

Cupcakes come in a range of flavors such as vanilla, cookie crunch and chocolate mint.

Potted Succulent $5

Potted plants are well priced at Joy's Flowers and Gifts, at 40 Hester St. near Essex Street, where a tiny succulent — a hen and chick — planted in an equally small-terra cotta pot can be yours for $5.

Store owner and florist Joy Hilany, 50, who has been in business for a year, harvests and pots the plants herself.

Iced Mocha Coffee $5.25

A mix of espresso, chocolate — an in-house sauce made from 70-percent dark chocolate with a dash of sugar  — and fresh milk has enticed many a customer at Café Grumpy at 13 Essex St.

"It [the iced mocha coffee] is the perfect summer afternoon pick-me-up — slightly sweet and refreshing," Caroline Bell, the cafe and bakery's owner, wrote in an email.

Cafe Grumpy has been open since 2011.

Two Helium Balloons $5

Grand Health Pharmacy, at 351 Grand St., doesn't just deal in prescriptions — the shop also inflates helium balloons featuring a range of traditional greeting messages and Disney characters.

"Unlike chain stores, we can offer more individual items," said pharmacist and owner Dorothy Tso, 39, of her business, which has been open for three years.

Balloons are particularly popular on special occasions, with about 40 sold last Valentine's Day, Tso said.

A Bag Full of Sweets $5

The Domingo Santo Bakery, at 93 Clinton St., and its owner Belkis Albelto, 47, have been serving Dominican-style cakes for 13 years.

Customers not only come from the neighborhood and all around the city, but also from as far away as Boston and Florida, according to Albelto.

At the bakery, $5 will get you a bag of sweet treats such as a slice of Dulce de Leche cake ($2.50), three mini Danishes ($1.25) and a tub of rice pudding ($1.25).

Handmade Chocolate Block $4.95

The Sweet Life, at 63 Hester St., has been satisfying the sugar cravings of the Lower East Side for 32 years.

Its handmade chocolate block, which goes for $4.95, is made in the shop with a variety of flavors such as salted caramel, berries and cherries, and Australian ginger and lemon.

"It's a good Belgium chocolate and we use the freshest ingredients," said Sam Greenfield, the owner of Sweet Life.

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