Barber shop offers unique business model

It’s been 10 years since a street-level hair salon or barber shop was established in the Village—that is until The Statesman Boutique and Grooming Parlor opened its doors.

The city placed a moratorium on hair salons in the Village to protect the retail nature and vitality of the downtown core, according to a council agenda report.

Owner Dylan Johnson explained that 51 percent of his square footage is retail, making his business primarily a boutique and secondly, a men’s grooming parlor.

“In order to fulfill our square footage of retail, all our furniture and waiting area, all the mid-century, modern furniture is for sale,” he said. “If people want to pick up this living room set, they can. If they want to buy that wall unit, they can.”

Pointing to the low, clear glass coffee table in the center of the room, Mr. Johnson said it was one of three in the world, made in the 1960s—and had already sold.

His tattooed arm then motioned to two Herman Miller chairs beside the table, which are also collectable pieces from the ‘60s and each priced at $1,100. Both have already sold, too.

“Typically when you walk into a barber shop, every square foot of the establishment is used for services,” Mr. Johnson said. “I want people to come in and feel like they’re sitting in my living room. Plus, it allows me to fulfill my retail duties.”

He noted the city’s concerns that people might be upset he was able to open because other barber shops were denied, but explained that he brought forward a different concept that wasn’t just a hair salon.

“The city did me a favor,” he said.

Although The Statesman is the first business Mr. Johnson’s owned, he’s had his hair cutting license for 17 years. During a stint in Los Angeles, he worked with celebrities like Orange Is the New Black star Ruby Rose and did house calls in Beverly Hills.

The 36-year-old grew up in Chino and attended Pomona Cosmetology School, located at the intersection of Holt and Indian Hill. The Statesman is at  1 N. Indian Hill Blvd. #105.

“Being on Indian Hill is really full circle for me, and I finally feel like I belong,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s been like a homecoming.”

As for the name “Statesman,” Mr. Johnson said he was looking for something that would establish an identity and give people a certain image or feeling.

He was researching old military terms when he stumbled upon statesman, which he described as someone in the British navy who has 20-plus years experience, can mentor people and pass down information.

Mr. Johnson, who’s educated hairdressers in every major city in the US, had found the perfect name.

“It was something a little bit more elegant feeling and sounding, and I wanted that to translate through the brand,” he said.

The brand he’s talking about doesn’t stop with haircuts and retail.

Mr. Johnson plans to host educational events and wants to create a place where Claremonters can spend time and hang out when they get off work. He also hopes to build community.

“A lot of times you’ll have clients see each other, that run into each other in the Village but don’t ever have a conversation,” he said. “And now they’ve built a relationship and become friends here. I think that’s a beautiful thing about this kind of a business. You can bring people together.”

Mr. Johnson’s longtime friend Russell Varian has been instrumental in developing The Statesman brand.

Currently a bartender for Caffe Allegro’s pop-up events, Mr. Varian also serves complimentary drinks to Mr. Johnson’s clients under California Assembly Bill No. 1322, which allows barber shops to provide alcohol to clients without liquor licenses given that there’s no extra charge.

The law, which went into effect in 2017, allows clients to be offered up to 12 ounces of beer or six ounces of wine.

Mr. Varian plans on further utilizing that law and thinks the shop is already thriving.

“We’re in here all the time. There’s people walking through the door all day long, people trying to get walk-ins done,” he said. “[Dylan’s] booked up for appointments though. I have friends calling me in the morning trying to find out what his schedule’s like.”

Beth Garvin, 49, drove past The Statesman a few times, thought it was a cool place and looked the shop up on Facebook. She messaged Mr. Johnson about scheduling an appointment for her 17-year-old son, Jack, and said Mr. Johnson was very kind.

“This place has a great atmosphere,” Ms. Garvin said. “The store looks so high end, so I thought it would be more expensive. But it was very affordable. We’re definitely going back.”

Mr. Johnson described his prices as “very middle:” $30 for a haircut with a hot towel and straight razor finish, $20 for a beard trim and $30 for a full face shave.

“With our beard trims, it’s not a quick in-and-out service. None of our grooming services are very quick or rushed,” Mr. Johnson said. “You get a hot lather straight razor treatment every time you’re in the chair, whether it’s around the ears or back of the neck or on the beard or the cheeks or on the face.”

He said all his employees treat the straight razor like it’s an extension of their hand, and that’s how he wants it to be.

“I feel like I’m confident enough, passionate enough about it and attention to detail that I think the service here is superior,” Mr. Johnson said. “I guarantee you that when someone sits in this chair and stands up, they’ll feel like nothing they’ve ever experienced before.”

And although the business name specifies “men’s grooming,” Mr. Johnson said he has a lot of female clients with short hair.

“It’s not a gender issue. It’s more of a background of technique and styling hair. I don’t do long style women’s haircuts,” he said.

Mr. Johnson hasn’t had a day off since the middle of December and said creating The Statesman, which opened in February, was “really scary.”

“Taking a couple months off from cutting hair to build this place was terrifying. I don’t have savings. I don’t have a lot to fall back on,” he said. “I literally put everything I have physically and mentally into every part of this place.”

Going forward, Mr. Johnson cited entrepreneurship as something that keeps him from being content.

“You always want to push and push and push and have more ideas and keep it going,” he said. “My hope is that it becomes a place for friends and family to come together and share experiences.”

—Meghan Bobrowsky


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