Barbering its Way to the Top
By: Taylor Andrews
His unoccupied office sits in the back, but you won’t find him there. He’s folding towels, extending a helpful hand to his employees or charming his customers.
He sports a fitted black ensemble, a velvet jacket, slacks and a signature bowtie- his newly relished staple. He wears a watch, but just for looks. He isn’t worried about the time, and you shouldn’t be either.
Keith Weiser, former Major League Baseball player and entrepreneur, yearned to rekindle a leisurely and unhurried life-style. His manifestation became Bowtie Barber Club, a barbershop that creates the sit-back-and relax, old-fashioned look with a twist of new Nashville chic.
“I was at a crossroads with my life. I was doing my soul searching after baseball and I tried to focus on the qualities with my personality and what I’m good at. I’m a people person and I love interacting, so the barbershop just made sense,” said Weiser who played with the Colorado Rockies for eight years.
His idea came to life in May last year, only one year after the initial planning process.
“I knew that if I was actually going to do something, it wouldn’t be just some ordinary barbershop,” said Weiser.
And boy, was he right.
Tucked away in a corner on Lebanon Pike, a small white board atop the building paints the words, “Bowtie Barber Club” in a rustic red and outdated font. Drive too fast and you’re destined to miss it.
Friendly faces greet you upon arrival. A mid-40s man waits his turn on the comfy leather chair, the navy coveralls he wears evident of his blue-collared work.
Thirsty? Coffee is offered for the businessman, water for the health enthusiast or rootbeer for the kid at heart.
Who doesn’t like rootbeer on draft?
Light bulb fixtures hang from the ceiling complimenting the hardwood floors. Five black, leather barber chairs align to the right of the room.
“I wanted all the chairs in line so that people waiting and getting their haircut could all sit there and communicate, BS with the barbers, whatever else,” said Weiser.
A barrel seemingly from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie is used as the barber’s workspace, an assortment of different blades, razors and shaving tools rest on top.
Weiser’s employee Craig Dillinger works proficiently on his customer with precision and attentiveness.
“He’s like a young body with an old-barber talent,” said Brent Bythewood, one of Bowtie Barber Club’s returning customers.
Quick banter exchanges between the men as Dillinger hums the “Sweet Home Alabama” anthem. Classic rock radio is played on repeat through the Pandora station.
Juiquetta Harmon, the club’s newest employee, introduces herself with a wide grin. A character pulled from a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, she tucks her white-collared shirt into her high-waisted black slacks. She wears purple suspenders that strap across her shoulders and finishes her look with a grey bowtie.
“I wear this stuff normally, so the fact that I can show up to work like this is even better,” said Harmon.
Black and white pictures hang along the walls, mainly of Weiser’s grandfather’s two-chair barbershop. A look around the barber club places you in his own scrapbook.
“My grandpa was a World War II vet and it was one of those hole-in-the-wall barber shops where all the veterans and the manly men would hang out and tell stories. I was only 12 years old, but I was still old enough to tell that not everyone could just walk in kind of place.”
Weiser’s inspiration for the Bowtie Barber Club came from the memories associated with his grandfather’s, which still stands as the oldest barbershop in Ohio.
“I know he was a good quality barber and people respected him. He would never treat anybody bad and that’s what we’ve carried on, those same values in this shop. Everyone wishes we could slow down life and go back to the way people used to treat each other.”
And Weiser does just that.
It seems as if time is of the essence, but not at Bowtie Barber Club. It’s no coincidence that clocks aren’t visibly seen in the shop.
Bowtie Barber Club’s longest employee, Joy Moran, reclines her client in his chair and lavishly applies shaving cream on his untamed beard.
One stroke, two, three, four. She uses the straight razor ever so carefully along his soon-to-be cleaned face. His 30-minute break from the outside world proving to be worth every penny- 2,500 pennies to be exact.
That’s the price of the straight razor shave, for members at least.
But an array of other services are offered as well. The $27 classic, non-member price, includes a cut, straight razor neck shave and steaming hot towel lasting twice as long as the 10-minute average service, said Weiser.
The $30 premium cut, non-member price, includes a haircut, a steaming mini facial, shampoo and a neck shave- a shoe shines make an excellent $12 add-on or single service.
Moran, almost finished with her masterpiece, retrieves a hot towel enriched with oils and places it atop the fresh face. Deep breaths from the client’s chest indicate a peaceful tranquility.
Her job is complete.
“When men come here, we like for them to relax. That’s what we’re all about. Life is stressful, everyone needs somewhere to relax,” she said.
Bythewood swears by each barber’s services, as he has experienced them all.
“When you walk through the door, you’re greeted. You’re apart of the conversations even while waiting. There’s never a time I feel like another number, I feel like an actual person, not just a customer,” he said.
Even the name, Bowtie Barber Club, protrudes a level of sophistication different from any other barbershop, said Weiser.
“We offer a membership. Once a month we do an after-hours event with all the members and it becomes a really great networking opportunity. You get to take it to another level instead of just coming to get a haircut,” said Weiser.
The elite, $10 a month membership, provides discounted member pricing on all services, 10 percent off all retail products, one free shoe shine a month and access to Bowtie Barber Club Member Nights. Previous member nights included bourbon tasting, art of shaving night and an acoustic singer-songwriter night.
“It’s nice to get to know people in the community who are also members here. It’s a good atmosphere. I’m a family man now, so it’s nice to get out there with the guys once in a while,” said Bythewood.
An additional 10 percent off for police officers, firefighters and military. Grandpa would approve.
“I want this to be a place where guys can come on in and just hang out and talk. You don’t have to come in here to get a haircut; I want this to be a place where they always feel welcome. I want this to feel the same way as when they get home,” said Weiser.
Barbers Jennifer Ebersberger and Tommy Street sit to the side, speaking easily to each other and comfortably wait for their next clients.
“I am the life of the shop,” Street gloats.
Ebersberger rolls her eyes in a younger-sister fashion.
Moran restlessly sits down in her chair and chimes in quickly, her cheetah-patterned bowtie matching her brown Fedora.
“He’s like the brother, y’know, you just want to sock him one time.”
“We’re honestly a family. We work as a team. We’re all together,” interrupts Ebersberger.
And family they are, their quickly moving conversation leaves a kink in the neck.
From much success in Nashville, Weiser plans to open up another Bowtie Barber Club in his hometown of Oxford, Ohio in April. With a prime spot on Miami of Ohio University’s campus, Weiser hopes to appeal to all audiences.
“The only difference is we’re going to have a speakeasy members lounge, to where it’s going to be its own room separated by a hidden door. Comfortable couches, furniture and free Wi-Fi for any member to come and just chill out,” said Weiser.
While Weiser’s services prove to be a little more expensive than the average haircut, he rests confidently that customers will return after one service.
“Do you want to go to a fast-food chain and get a fast-food meal? Or do you want to go sit down at a nice steakhouse and know what you’re eating and the quality of what you’re going to get?”