Tahir Kahiel began cutting hair for students and faculty on AU’s campus 15 years ago. But this October, Kahiel will be cutting all ties with the University as he is forced off campus at the end of month.
Kahiel, the owner of TIGI Boutique, was surprised to learn that his shop would not be returning to AU’s campus for another year after receiving a letter of termination from the University.
Although Kahiel missed his lease renewal date by seven months, Kahiel claims he was given no warning or notification that his lease would be terminated.
“All of a sudden, we received a letter saying, ‘We need the space for other use, and you have until October to leave’,” Kahiel said.
Upon getting the letter, he reached out to Auxiliary Services and pleaded for negotiations to remain on campus, according to Kahiel. He was crushed to find out that the auxiliary office was already working on bringing in a new tenant.
“We don’t know what to do,” Kahiel said.“Where do we go from here? We’ve got families to feed.”
The University is planning to replace his shop with a Subway to feed more AU students, according to Kahiel.
David Courter, the director of Auxiliary Services, acknowledged Kahiel’s attempts to negotiate, but declined to comment on the specifics of the talks.
“They did have an option to renew, [but] they didn’t exercise their option to renew,” Couter said. “So the University moved on with planning on how to use the space.”
Couter could not confirm that a contract or decision was made to move Subway to the space held by TIGI Boutique.
Aramark employee and Subway supervisor Apollos Hill has been told by Aramark that the University does intend to put a Subway in a new location.
“As of now that’s the plan. It could change, [but Subway will be] across the street hopefully by next year,” Hill said.
Hill said the new facility would be larger and offer more options for students.
Joseph Campbell, a professor in the School of Communication and long-time customer of the salon, explained how he was disappointed and appalled that the hair salon would be replaced by a food establishment. Campbell said the reason behind the termination was based on technicality and that he thought the hair salon did nothing to warrant the action.
“In my opinion, it’s a good long-standing member of the community not getting a break,” Campbell said.
According to Courter, the completion of the Cassell Residence Hall and the increase in the number of students created a larger demand for food services on campus, decreasing the need for other amenities.
“I can confirm that when we determined that we needed the food use, the thought was that the hair salon wasn’t serving as many people as more food service would,” Courter said.“It’s an economic choice.”
Kahiel completed renovations on the salon one month before receiving the letter and says he will also be facing some economic choices as he changes the location of his salon.
“Everything went to waste and its going to cost more than $100,000 to build a new salon from scratch,” Kahiel said. “So it’s really hurt us.”
TIGI Botique received nearly 1,500 clients this past month, according to Kahiel.
Drew Sunderland, a 31-year-old AU alumnus, is a regular customer of Kahiel’s. He got his first haircut on campus by Kahiel in 2005 during his junior year and has since visited the salon at least once a month.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” Sunderland said. “I wouldn’t even think about it.”
Sunderland said that his loyalty to the salon didn’t come from convenience, but rather from Kahiel himself and the level of service he provides. Sunderland also said that he will follow Kahiel wherever he sets up his store.
In the meantime, Kahiel has started a petition for students and faculty that support the hair salon, which has gathered more than 1,500 signatures. Although Kahiel has already prepared to move off campus, he is hoping to use the petition as a final plea to the University for negotiations to remain on campus.
In late October, Kahiel is planning to move to 4000 Wisconsin Ave. to restart his business and hopes his customers will follow to the new location.
“[On campus] it’s like we’re home,” Kahiel said. “We don’t want to leave.”