barbershop, Tommy Gun

Al Capone hairdo

Photographer:Irina Litvin
Brothers Maksim and Aleksandr Galevich opened a barber’s shop “Tommy Gun” where men cut and shave men only. The brothers tell The People about treating clients to whiskey, about absence of competition and the network growth in Ukraine.

 

Origins

Maksim: You might say it is a family business. Working with my brother is easy, as we trust each other. He is a trustful person that will never betray.

Aleksandr: The popular conception is that doing business with relatives and friends is dangerous. Conflicts, which can influence the relations, are possible. It is somehow true: it is easier to give a piece of one’s mind to a stranger, but Maksim and I have to be loyal to each other so that our relationship don’t take a beating.

I have two university degrees: in marketing and international economics. I have been conducting relationship, communication and style trainings for 9 years already.

Maksim: I am a translator by education. None of us dealt with hairdressing. Our third co-founder is a businessman from the USA.

Format

Maksim: We decided to open a barber’s shop to create something new and special in Kiev. It’s difficult for a Ukrainian man to find a place where he will feel comfortable and will want to return once again. In a common beauty shop there are only women and men feel out of place. So we wanted to found a truly men’s shop.

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It’s situated in Kiev center but the shop-window doesn’t open on the street. The barber’s shop hides in the courtyard and it’s not easy to find, but that’s the shtick – we position ourselves as an inner club.

The concept is that only men can have their hair cut and in the classical style only – shaven back of the head and temples. We treat our clients to whiskey, beer and other drinks. Soon we are going to offer them cigars. Smoking will be allowed outdoors only, of course.

Interior

Maksim: Aleksandr created the design and I supervised the corporate identity and logo development and decided technical issues.

Aleksandr: We’ve chosen classical, I would say even canonical variant. This is the style of American 20’s and 30’s. Our co-founder used to visit American barber’s shops and he knows all the details. He helped us to develop the design so that we conveyed as precisely as possible that gangster style.

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Maksim: I wanted that our location represented the spirit of the times, the style of which we’ve chosen. In order to make our clients feel like heroes of black-and-white movie we used these two colors in the interior. There are black-and-white photos on the walls, the square floor tiles are black and white – typical for the American barber’s shops.

Symbol

At the door there is a barber’s pole; it is a revolving cylinder with a helix of blue and red stripes, barbers’ sign. Barbers used to perform medical procedures on customers; they not only cut hair. The bandages were covered with blood and they were thrown into a special basin. Later barbers were banned from the practice of medical assistance, but the red and white poles remained. In the USA, the blue color appeared on barber’s pole. Red is a symbol of blood, blue is veins, and white is sterility. We have a three-colored one brought from the USA.

The name also lays stress on American 20’s: gangsters, Chicago syndicates, Al Capone. As his favorite weapon was tommy gun we have the same name, “TommyGun”. It sounds good and is easy to remember.

Team

Maksim: There are eight people in our team besides us: two administrators and six barbers. We selected them thoroughly. Every candidate had to pass the test – to bring a model and make him a demonstration haircut, and the professionals watched the work and checked the result.

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Aleksandr: All barbers are men. It is easier to come to understanding with the representative of the stronger sex. Many men might feel inconvenient with woman, no matter whether the relations are personal or business.

Almost all hairdressers are taught to make woman’s haircuts, man’s haircuts are ignored. We have two barbers whom we have taught ourselves, people of a kind would be more in the future. One of our masters studies the skill of straight razor in Turkey.

Clients

Maksim: Our clients are men only. Their age is between 25 and 35 years old. 70-80% are regular customers. Every month there are 20% of new clients.

Aleksandr: Clients are very different. I wouldn’t call our clients metrosexuals or hipsters. Half of them are brutal and barbate fellows who look after themselves. As our master Gosha says, it’s not difficult to please a client. They just come to have their hair cut and to have a drink.

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Maksim: The victims of cheap beauty shops come to us more than once and ask to do over what they got. It’s much more difficult to amend poor man’s haircut than a woman’s one, as men have less hair.

Women want “to go under the scissors” of our masters, but we deny. Our rule is not to seat women into barber’s chair. We can only offer them a special sofa and coffee to while away the time. Barber’s shop is an exceptionally men’s place, it is a historically established tradition and we cannot break it.

Competition

Maksim: The niche of this kind of business in Ukraine is filled 5% only. There are few barber’s shops here, people only start to learn about them. When we started the project, the barber’s shop was second in Kiev. Now there are more of them in Kiev, so there’s no struggle for clients. Just a pleasant fraternal competition.

Advertisement and promotion

Maksim: We place advertisements in Facebook; it involves the majority of our clients. Moreover, contextual advertising — promo parties will be held once a month. We will drink whiskey, smoke cigars and play poker.

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Aleksandr: I conduct appearance and style trainings, or just friendly get-togethers. These events are a good advertising. Bush telegraph is a perfect way to promote ourselves.

Plans

Maksim: We would like to strengthen the popularity of barber’s shops. Our next place is to open soon in Podol, and then we are going to expand in Ukraine. Potential cities are Lvov, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk. We offer franchise to CIS members.

Aleksandr: We plan to found the barber college, and the graduates will be able to work in beauty shops, and at our barber’s shop as well.