Whatever happened to the barber shop? The kind of place guys went to – not a salon, not a day spa, just a good old barber. Instinctively, men do know about these things, because real barber shops are guy places.
They have a certain smell, a certain feel; other guys hanging out before or after a shave and a haircut. Ultimately, they are a sort of a grown up clubhouse. It’s not home, not the office – it’s the “third place.”
Think of Al Capone in the opening of the classic movie “Untouchables.” He was not getting an avocado and pear facial; he was getting the hot towel treatment prior to a straight edge shave. And he was wearing a tie. That’s what guys do.
Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club is all about that. It’s a place for guys that both harkens back to the local barber shop, but also infuses that model with a more modern flair – a lounge with flat screen TV, it’s own branded magazine and depending on the franchisee, a host of inspired layouts.
Yes, Kennedy’s is a franchise; surprising to some, but wholly logical to Chris Hurn. Chris is the CEO of Mercantile Capital Corporation, the parent company of Kennedy’s and entrepreneur extraordinaire. While that corporate framework takes some of the wind out Kennedy’s small-town nostalgic sails, Hurn is genuine when it comes to what Kennedy’s means for men. He want’s to see Kennedy’s everywhere, not only because it’s great for business, but also because he wants men to get back to being men.
Chris Hurn (3rd from right) and the Kennedy’s crew
Chris Hurn recently sat down with OTC and we chatted about Kennedy’s, haircuts and men’s clubs. Hurn is a self described serial entrepreneur and came across Kennedy’s predecessor in the new urbanist town of Celebration Florida.
A couple of British guys had developed and executed a membership-based version of an American barber shop, but its business model was sorely lacking. Hurn, who as a member himself, saw enormous potential and offered to by them out. After a two year process, the deal was closed and Hurn had his newest company.
Hurn told me that he liked the idea of a membership-based operation, which is a great franchise model. While anyone can walk in and get a haircut or shave, members are afforded various all-inclusive packages based on their tier of membership – unlimited haircuts or straight razor shaves, shoe shines and, at some locations, massages.
The target audience is the mass-affluent guy pulling in around $75,000, who sees this as a well-deserved treat to himself. It’s a small but regular luxury that lets him relax and hang out with other guys.
“It’s a men’s club that happens to cut hair and give shaves, “Hurn said.
And the shave part of that equation is no small matter. Most states regulate who can actually give a straight razor shave; some don’t even allow them. Shaving in this manner is akin to an art form that only experience can provide.
In Maryland, for example, only certified Master Barbers can use a straight razor. After fine tuning the model, Kennedy’s was re-launched in August of 2008 and business is going strong. Currently, there are eight locations with several more coming on line in the immediate future. My location, in Rockville, Maryland, is number seven.
Owners Dave Gagner and Jeff Bochner invited me in for a complimentary shave and haircut which I promptly accepted (it had been a least a month, so the timing was perfect.) While their location, then open only a few months, was still a work in progress, the vision was obvious: your grandfather’s barber shop updated for today – along with complementary coffee, bottled water, soda, snacks.
At some shops you can even kick back with a nice cold beer. As Jeff told me, each franchisee works off a standard floor plan template based on the footprint of their space. However, there is enormous flexibility limited only by zoning regulations. Some owners expand their lounge areas into full-blown private club type spaces – one franchisee is even planning to include a full service bar.
In Jeff’s case, as an entrepreneur himself, he and his business partner opted to relocate their own offices into the shop’s space and construct a separate boardroom that is available for member’s to use. This means that members can hold meetings and receive clients at their “club.” It’s a great selling point, member benefit and marketing tool.
My haircut and shave were excellent and the experience relaxing. I have to say, that shave is reason enough to come back – I nice old school neck massage helped round it out. In fact, I’ll probably join and take advantage of those unlimited shaves and haircuts.
Kennedy’s is moving full speed into the lifestyle/branding market, as one would expect from a guy who created a rather massive holding company based on entrepreneurship and franchising. Kennedy’s branded grooming products just launched and should be filling the shelved of a location near you and they already have their own in-house magazine – a good one at that.