Blind Barber – Makes the Cut

 

 

For centuries, the barbershop was the ordinary man's safe haven – until the 1970s, when it almost entirely disappeared. In New York, this oasis of unconstrained masculinity now celebrates its renaissance.

A man wearing a three-piece suit enters the shop. Depositing his trilby on the hatrack, he parks his walking stick in the stand next to the entrance. The barbershop smells pleasantly of aftershave and whisky. The snip-snip-snip of busy scissors mingles with loud guffaws from the back. A group of young men are seated at a small table at the far end of the barber's shop playing cards. The atmosphere is relaxed, almost cozy. This is what Jeff Laub envisions when he imagines his grandfather’s barbershop. The backdrop of countless anecdotes from his grandfather's heyday in the wild 1920s, when a man was still allowed to be a man and didn't have to conform to metrosexual beauty standards. When going to the barber was less about hair care and more about social interaction with like-minded peers. Whenever he heard these stories, the grandson would ask himself: Why doesn't a place like this exist today for me and my friends? A question that stayed with him even after he began law school in New York until, one fine day in 2009, he decided to resurrect the legendary sanctuary of yore. A place that incorporated the atmosphere of his grandfather’s tales, yet catered to present-day needs. A clubhouse for the modern man; an oasis where real men feel comfortable and spend time together. The idea for the Blind Barber was born.

Lawyer meets doctor to establish barber's shop

Having a great idea is one thing. Actually going out and living it is usually the harder part. "In hindsight, the biggest obstacle was to find someone who'd just take a leap of faith with me," Jeff Laub tells us today. Not surprising, really, as the credentials of the Blind Barber visionary were less than convincing. After dropping out of cosmetology school, Laub was enrolled in law school at the time his idea was born. A quirky career path – a trait he shared with his future business partner, Adam Kirsch. Kirsch, having quit his medical studies, was working as a marketing consultant for various music labels in New York and acquiring initial experience as an event manager in the gastronomy sector. The fact that these men met was a complete fluke. "The last piece of the puzzle was my ex-girlfriend who said, "Well, I know someone you should speak to," Laub tells us with a grin.

It was about creating a product we love. Otherwise, I would be making all this shit up.

Laub arranged to meet Kirsch. And by the end of their meeting, they knew which direction they wanted to go: A blend of Laub's barbershop plans with a New-York-style bar. Kirsch also brought Joshua Boyd on board, a gastronomy expert some ten years their senior whom Kirsch had met during his work as floor host and General Manager. Boyd was able to provide both the necessary gastronomical experience and a potential venue in the East Village in Manhattan: The Blind Barber team was complete. Not wanting to loose any time, the three enthusiasts didn't even bother with a business plan. "We shook hands, grabbed a sledge hammer and started knocking walls down," Laub says, casting his mind back. These memories act as a catalyst on the articulate young man, who is instantaneously catapulted to an energy level far beyond any force known to humankind. His chestnut-colored eyes start gleaming and, gesticulating wildly in the gloom of the bar, Laub – who at a second glance resembles a young George Clooney – bursts out, "To us it was never about making money. It was about creating a product we love. Otherwise, I would be making all this shit up."

Our aim was to create a perfect place for friends to hang out, feel comfortable, cultivate ideas, and connect with other people.

Groomed for success

Obviously strong believers in taking immediate action, the trio eschew following an outside agenda. A fact clearly proclaimed by the non-conformist interior decor at the Blind Barber. The unevenly whitewashed brick walls at the entrance bestow a rough and ready air to the barber's shop. Yet, in no way does the small space come across as stark or cold; instead, it has a robust and positive, hands-on feel about it. A successful tribute to the barbershop of the 1920s along with the bar corner at the back that melds well with the no-frills, relaxed overall character. Benches upholstered in tasteful green leather border the sides of the lounge. The side tables made from empty whisky barrels act as a contrast and contribute to the masculine air of authenticity. "Our aim was to create a perfect place for friends to hang out," Adam Kirsch gives as explanation for the design concept. "We want our friends to feel comfortable, cultivate ideas and connect with other people." And that is what they do – every single day. Three years down the line, both barber chairs are fully booked every day. And a few months ago, the trio even launched a second establishment in Los Angeles. To round things off, the young entrepreneurs are in the process of developing a skin and hair care range for men with several articles already on sale.

If I hadn't found my dream job here, I'd be delivering pizzas. That was the best job I ever had, because I met tons of people every day.

The Blind Barber's resounding success is a dream come true for Jeff Laub and his two business partners. And it enabled them to escape from their daily routines. "I was working at a law firm and I hated it," Laub admits readily. "Today I have to argue with my girlfriend because she wants me to stay in bed, and I can't because I want to get here and start doing something." A contributing factor, both Laub and Kirsch are convinced, is the freedom of not having a boss at the top. And the many different people they meet daily are the ultimate incentive to try out new ideas. Just like the deal with the candlemaker who came in for a haircut the other day. They started talking. And after a long conversation decided on a joint project to create candles exclusively for the Blind Barber label. "If I hadn't found my dream job here, I'd be delivering pizzas," Laub states with a grin. "That was the best job I ever had." Why? "Because I met tons of people every day."

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