One good thing about being one of those artsy types who pioneer neighborhoods that later become impossibly chic is all of the real-estate wheeling and dealing you end up doing with New York celebrities.
Witness otherwise-ordinary New Yorkers Alan Adler and Thomas Frasca, a couple who work together at the ritzy Gerard Bollei Salon on East 57th Street.
They just sold their meticulously renovated townhouse with carefully tended garden at 32 Perry Street for $9.1 million.
Mr. Frasca described himself as a hair colorist.
“And Alan is a hairdresser-no, stylist, a hair stylist. He’s screaming at me! He was trained by Vidal Sassoon.”
Mr. Adler later said that he is also an aspiring screenwriter.
And while city records don’t list a celebrity as their buyer-they wouldn’t divulge the buyer’s identity, either-they once rented an apartment to Page Six maestro Richard Johnson in the building.
It’s a little ritzier now than it was back then.
“The sale price came to $2,275 per square foot,” said the listing broker, Corcoran vice president Tatiana Cames. “And I think that’s the highest downtown.” (It’s at least one of the highest.)
Why would the relatively petite (4,000-square-foot) brownstone sell for so much? It was built in 1845-the beginning of the James Polk administration!-so there are details like marble mantels and a Greek Revival Ogival Arch atop the front door. (There are also latter-day touches like heated limestone floors.)
The sellers, who celebrated their 36th anniversary last Sunday, didn’t always live amid such luxury. “We were two guys and a cat,” Mr. Adler said.
“Two guys with fur,” Mr. Frasca said later.
They bought their first shared apartment in 1985, a loft at 426 West Broadway that had belonged to a member of the Cars.
“We pickled the floors,” Mr. Adler said about that first renovation, adding: “We really made it hum.”
Then they moved up in the real-estate world: Thanks to a chatty listing broker, the couple bought one of Martin Scorsese’s apartments at 165 Duane Street, an old coconut-processing plant. “She was getting her hair done, looking at a floor plan. We said, `What are you looking at?'”
But that apartment wasn’t perfect. “Tribeca was a little too pregnant for us at the time,” said Mr. Adler. “Pregnant, as in young couples.” So they moved back to Soho, buying an apartment at 421 West Broadway from Talking Heads bandmates Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz.
The couple finally saw the house at 32 Perry in 1997, listed for $1.8 million. “It was a dumpsite inside,” said Mr. Adler.
They closed for less than the asking price, but there were snags: Three of the four floors had been rented out for the year, which meant the new homeowners became landlords.
“Who do you think my tenant was?” asked Mr. Frasca. “Richard and Nadine Johnson.”
Later, as Mr. Adler tells it, the house’s restoration hit money problems. “So we ended up selling the Richard Prince”-it was a print in the Marlboro Man series-“some wonderful Kilim rugs, and paid for the rest of the renovation.”
The Prince-financed townhouse got a cook’s kitchen, five bedrooms, a library for Mr. Frasca’s autographed biographies, a third-floor porch, and a back garden that blooms with hydrangeas and rare white wisterias and others from March to November.
Will their next place be even statelier?
“For us, this is the first time we can sit back and wait,” said Mr. Adler, “and look.”