At a new, clean, classically styled barbershop in Culver City, the three young owners sit in the sun coming through their open storefront window talking women, restaurants and booze. Casual and welcoming, the attitude is akin to that of a clubhouse — a community hangout as in times past. It helps that their shop, the Blind Barber, is also a bar.
"My grandfather was a very well-dressed and put-together man," said Jeff Laub, 28, one of the partners. "He hung at his barbershop. That's where they talked about women, that's where they played cards, that's where they made deals, that's where it all went down. He was the coolest dude I ever knew, and we wanted to replicate that."
"When it's referred to as a 'clubhouse' that makes me overjoyed," added Laub's partner, Adam Kirsch, 26. "We wanted to create a spot where we could just hang out any time of day — whether you're partying, relaxing, getting your hair cut, or on your computer just doing work."
Since 2010, the original Blind Barber location in New York City has been serving up haircuts with a twist: trims and straight-razor shaves in the front, specialty cocktails and beer in the back. It's situated on Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan's East Village, where Laub, Kirsch and Josh Boyd have built a community. The clients have become familiar faces; Boyd noted they'll throw parties one night and the next morning see the same people in for haircuts. Their Culver City location soft-opened last week, and they're enjoying some extra space with the new location.
Laub said they brought most of the New York vibe with them. "Same tiles, same chairs — but this is just so different. It's double the size," he said.
Four barber stations and a waiting area by the window fit in without crowding the simple room. Small white tiles comprise the floor, and the showiest piece of design is the weathered white metal applied to two of the walls.
"It's open, it's airy," said Laub.
The bar in the back, which is open after 6 p.m., is much bigger, fitting more than a dozen wooden tables with red iron chairs and black leather booths. The earthy colors, sconces and antique decorations give the place a cozy feeling. Lighted portraits of a real-life Idaho man they call Mr. Nick hang on the walls, showing him with a long mustache, sipping coffee or riding a Yamaha motorcycle. He's the epitome of the Blind Barber, said Boyd, 37. "He's like a modern-day cowboy," he said.
Behind the big brass bar that Laub and Boyd surfaced themselves, bartenders mix a menu of signature and seasonal cocktails. The most popular, they said, is probably Strawberry Fields, which blends Stoli vodka, lemon, honey, strawberries and parsley. Others prefer the Hot Heather (named after Boyd's wife) made of Milagro tequila, lemon, ginger, agave, grapefruit and pineapple, or the Batman (named after Boyd's dog), which includes Plymouth gin, St. Germain, angostura bitters, lemon, sugar and mint. There are no uniforms and the objective is comfort, not pretension, said Boyd. There is also a kitchen to serve up gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, and barber customers receive a complimentary drink.
The all-purpose clubhouse concept was born of Laub's years of working at salons. He had plans for law school but came to the realization that he was seeing something special. "I loved watching the intimate dynamic between the women coming in, having a glass of wine while they were having their hair blown out, and all the gossip going on," he said. So he set out to create such a room for him and his friends.
Soon he connected with Kirsch and Boyd, who had been working in the city's night life scene. Two years later, Blind Barber has expanded beyond the two shops to become a lifestyle brand — hosting pop-up barber chairs at special events, designing limited runs of co-branded ties and headphones, and creating its own grooming line of hair wax, pomade, aftershave and candles.
To replicate their flagship's success, the three said it comes down to personality. "At the end of the day, people gravitate to any business because they like being with whoever's doing it," said Boyd.
"This is our office," said Laub. "When people are walking by or they come in, they see us. With a lot of clubs and a lot of bars, you don't ever know who's behind them. But we like to be here. That's how this place grows and the collaborations happen."