How Blind Barber created a barbershop-meets-cocktail lounge experience
With locations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, Blind Barber is hands down the most definitive barbershop experience in the U.S. Not only are guests treated to top-notch services, world-class hair products and a complimentary cocktail, but once the service is complete, you can simply walk through the door in the back and be transported to a retro-inspired and exceptionally designed lounge and nightclub. The space includes the best mixologists, DJs and special performances and events that vary across each location.
Blind Barber was founded by four hard-working creatives who each brought in their distinct experiences, ranging from the salon and food and beverage industries to brand marketing and development, to create a fully realized vision that’s constantly evolving. We spoke with co-owner Jeff Laub, who was instrumental in developing the brand’s concept and has led the charge in developing their hop-infused hair product brand into something that goes far beyond their already impeccable brick-and-mortar shops and bars. The future looks bright for Blind Barber, as they plan to open additional locations in the near future and continue to provide a space where you can look and feel your best.
What was your first introduction to the salon/barber industry?
JEFF LAUB: My mom was a manager at a really reputable salon in the Tri-state area, and when I was out of work in college, I would pick up some gigs running the front desk, so that was my first introduction into the salon world. I didn’t know it was going to be a career at the time. It was just a part-time gig hanging out with a creative community and a way to make some cash.
Obviously, you brought your experience from that industry to the table when you linked up with the other co-owners. How did the rest of the team help jump-start Blind Barber and its nightlife component?
I had no experience in the food and beverage world and the bar industry, but when I was introduced to [co-owners] Josh Boyd and Adam Kirsch, I had a business plan and an idea but didn’t know how to execute it yet. I had a pretty healthy grasp of how a salon worked and operated. When I brought it to Josh, he had a bar at the time that he was selling, but instead of going through with that, we converted it into Blind Barber. Josh and Adam were in charge of operating the bar aspect. I operated the barbershop, and over the course of time, we learned each other’s lanes.
Little by little, we all started to feed into each other. Then our fourth co-owner Matt Breen came on board two years later to help push us to the next level. We had two locations at the time, but it wasn’t a cohesive brand yet. Once he came in, he helped us tie it all together, and it’s been off to the races ever since.
What kind of environment are you trying to foster with Blind Barber?
I was lucky to work at some really cool salons that offered an experience beyond the haircut. When you would go into these salons, you would be with a top-notch stylist, the salons are beautiful, the attention to clients’ happiness is top-notch. You get a glass of wine, an espresso, a nice robe, great reading material, and everyone’s hanging out, and everyone knows you.
On the flip side, and it’s not the case anymore, a barbershop was a place where my friends would get a $15 haircut, in and out. There was this major gap at the time, and it seemed like the barbers were not getting compensated for the level of skill they were providing. I wanted to bring the experience that people were having in the salons and bring it to the barbershop world. For some reason, the barber technique was always downplayed, but people with short hair actually care just as much about their hair as those who go to the salons, and beer just seemed natural to pair with it.
You were also the main person from the team who really spearheaded the creation of your now staple hair and beauty product line. What was the process of coming up with these formulas and bringing them to the masses?
Blind Barber has been this blank canvas for us hardworking creatives that were down to fail fast and learn quickly. When we started seeing the response of our shop and how the brand went beyond the immediate neighborhood and started to branch out, and got attention from everyone ranging from New York Times, GQ and Complex, we then pondered what else we could create to make this even more ours. Once we decided to make our product line, we were introduced to some of the greatest labs in the country. After that, it was a no-brainer to continue creating stuff that would further embody the mission of Blind Barber, which is to make people feel like the best versions of themselves.
What were some of the best events that Blind Barber put on in the bar space over the years?
Our one-year anniversary was the coolest night. It was a testament to our hard work and a belief in an idea that became a reality. It was a celebration amongst a bunch of friends who put blood, sweat, tears and ideas into something that was actually staying. On top of that, we had Theophilus London come to perform before he was really popping off. Randomly, one night I got a text through a mutual friend that Donald Glover [Childish Gambino] wanted to pop by, and when he showed up, he asked if he could perform. He went up to the DJ, who had some instrumentals, and from there, Donald Glover just freestyled for 45 minutes. Also, when Dave Chappelle randomly asked if he could perform comedy at our Culver City location, that was definitely really cool as well.
I’ve heard that you were an avid fan of emo and pop-punk music in the early 2000s. What are some of your favorite memories and bands from this time?
Seeing the June Spirit at the local VFW hall in New Jersey, for sure, or going to see Taking Back Sunday. My neighbor was Jeff Kummer, who is the drummer for the band the Early November, as well as their former bassist Mike Klemash, who I still talk to from time to time.
This interview first appeared in issue #402 (22 for ’22), available here.