Published: October 02. 2012 6:52PM
Written by Ann Hicks
Photographed by Cindy Hosea
Sinatra croons softly in the background as stylists expertly apply steaming towels to the face of reclining customers. With gentle massages they get the faces ready for a close shave — a straight razor shave that leaves men’s jowls nuzzleable.
Scuffed shoes wait their turn for a shine with polish master Willie Reeder’s skilled snaps at the spanking-new shoeshine chair while recent arrivals are ushered upstairs to await their turn in the chocolate colored, mostly leather-bound lounge. Three men take turns for drink orders, solicited by salon manager Pat Harrison. She returns with two bourbons and one Scotch.
Welcome to Frank’s Gentlemen Salon, an old-fashioned barbershop that heralds its East Coffee Street location with a slow-twirl, tri-color barber pole. Owner Melanie Wright has been in the women’s salon business for 22 years, but this manly stuff is still a very new venture for her.
It’s good to be a beauty king
It’s all about service and man-pampering from the moment a client enters the barbershop. Someone will take his coat and get him something to drink; his jacket will be put back on when he leaves. A delighted Andrew Cajka says he gets energized at Frank’s and ready to face his busy schedule.
Greenville is catching up with much of the rest of the world regarding male grooming. According to findings by Euromonitor International, approximately $4 billion will be the spent worldwide on men’s grooming by 2014. Skin care products lead the way, with shaving products close behind, notably razors and blades. Big-name players such as Dove, Nivea, and Proctor and Gamble have established male-specific lines of hair- and skin-care products. The smaller, more private enterprises that have also jumped into the game now offer male grooming brands to meet the demand from metrosexuals and ’burb dwellers for such products.
They all heard the clarion call: Being well groomed is sexy.
The response among Greenville women couldn’t be more thrilling, Wright says. Frank’s sold lots of gift packages for Father’s Day and expects brisk growth in its gift-card business during the coming holidays.
The art of shaving recovered
Wright is among those savvy business people who get to ride the wave in this undoubtedly ever more liquid marketplace.
“Men also want to get all these things done for them but don’t want to get it done at a chicky-place,” she says emphatically.
The 30 minutes her customers spend at the barbershop are about quiet relaxation in an agreeable environment.
Among Wright’s many learning moments included the advice of her oldest son, 24 year old Cody, who is a Citadel graduate. The advice concerned sofas and men. Wright, about to purchase a big sofa, was told not to waste her money. Men, Cody said, will not sit three to a sofa.
Not to worry. In Frank’s upstairs lounge, the laid-back world awaits men with large, comfortable, leather chairs; mood lighting; and the obligatory big-screen television.
Jenna Moore, Cody’s girlfriend, designed the mustachioed logo and the website for the business. Middle son, 18-year old Connor, suggested the name Frank’s, (named after Frank O’Brian who owns the building), and 14-year old Cason assisted with everything from researching which cigars to stock to picking out the salon’s color scheme.
The business of being Frank’s
In less than five months, the downtown business earned a 90 percent re-booking rate. Wright says men whose travels bring them to Greenville make up the remaining 10 percent as the barbershop partners with local hotels.
The salon has contracted with The Courtyard at Marriott and Hampton Inn to do the shoeshine included among the hotels’ amenities. The barbershop picks up and returns the guests’ polished shoes to the hotel; along the way, the shop picks up business as the men come in for haircuts and shaves before leaving town.
Wright also partners with clothier Rush Wilson. He carries in his shop a product line called The Art of Shaving, which is used at the barbershop. Clients who wish to purchase these products are then directed to Wilson’s.
Further partnering will be seen, as Frank’s hosts, on November 3, the first annual mustache competition in Greenville. The free event will solicit donations at the door, which will be given to a local charity.
One of things Wright says she finds arresting is to see men in their 40s and 50s who had gone to the barbershop with their fathers when they were young now bringing their sons to Frank’s to build new memories.
Wright says it’s a simple formula.
“We didn’t invent the wheel,” she explains. "We just put a new spin to the old-school barbershop.”
|'We pamper them' says Melanie Wright, Frank's Gentlemen Salon owner, about her customers.CINDY HOSEA/Staff|