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VOL. 123 | NO. 43 | Monday, March 3, 2008

Gents Proves Pampering Not Just for Women

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JUST A TRIM: Gents The Gentleman's Cut owner Lisa West gives customer Chris Boyd a trim. -- Photo By Rosalind Guy
Gents the Gentleman's Cut

Address: 802 S. Cooper St.
Owner: Lisa West
Staff: 1
Phone: 725-3772
Web site: www.gentsfinest.com

It seems gender equity hasn't completely reached the barber shop, at least that's what Lisa West has experienced throughout her career as a barber. "I don't let women cut my hair" or "You don't look like a barber" are sayings she's heard more than once.

But that wasn't enough to stop her from becoming a master barber. And now, after just six years, the master barber has opened her own shop.

West opened Gents The Gentlemen's Cut, a barber shop/men's salon Feb. 1 in the Cooper-Young area. West, who called her shop a "wellness oasis," said opening it is something she has wanted to do for quite some time.

But it's more than just opening the business. She wanted to do something nice for men.

"I can't say actually what made me aspire to do this, although it's not often that you see a lot of nice things being done for men," she said. "It's usually for women, just like even for Father's Day, a man will get a screwdriver, a neck tie, socks or something like that. But in my experience of being a barber and working with men, I realized that men really do like nice things and men want to be pampered."

Tuning up the body

At Gents, men can get not only a haircut, but they can receive "skin tune-ups and hand and foot detail services."

"These are just terms that I use," West said, "but they're generally known as facials and manicures and pedicures. A lot of men aren't into saying, 'I got a manicure today, man' or 'I got a facial with my haircut today.'"

Thus the creative car-related terminology. Yet another aspect of the business is the décor, which West said she felt would appeal to men. It includes wooden accents, a large flat-panel TV, chess game, books and magazines that all have an appeal to men. West said she chose every item with the goal of contributing to the overall wellness of the men who come into her shop.

In addition to haircuts and wellness services, Gents offers complimentary juices, wines and fresh fruit. Other services include neck, back and scalp massages.

Currently, West is the only employee. But she hopes to soon add three barbers and a manicurist. By the summer, she said she will have added two to three massage therapists, but she wants to take her time in adding staff.

"I'm going to bring those people in one at a time and strategically because I want to maintain the feel of Gents," she said, as soft jazz drifted from the stereo speakers in the background. "You know, I want people who have the same type of values that I have as far as the way they do business and the way that they handle the clients and things like that.

"So the hiring process isn't going to be something handled hastily. Because no matter who they are, once they come into the door, they are now representatives of Gents and I want to be sure that person is going to make the proper representation."

Old-school tradition

To prepare for having a shop like Gents, West spent some time working under someone she calls a veteran barber, 70-year-old Julian Williams. Her mentor taught her about using a razor to edge around a man's ears and down his neck, and about using warm towels and hot lather.

She said she wanted that old-school feel because it focuses on the person and helps make them look their best.

"There's so many things that other barbers don't do, but the veteran old-school barbers from the '50s, they did all that," West said. "It wasn't special back then because that's just the way they did things.

"A lot of these newer barber shops don't really cater to grooming the man and that's kind of my focus. ... Some of them won't even give you a shampoo."

She said she also plans to add other services in the near future, services that will be geared toward those men who might stop in during their lunch hour for a hair cut. West said she's looking at wireless network carriers so customers will be able to bring their laptops and still feel connected to the office. She'll also offer fax services.

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