Frank’s Gentleman’s Salon brings classic barbershop experience to men in Columbia
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The barbershop is an American staple, as familiar as mom’s apple pie or baseball. The tradition of men gathering to discuss politics and current events over haircuts and close shaves still can be found in some neighborhoods. Frank’s Gentleman’s Salon is one such place.
And it took a woman to bring back the classic barbering experience for men to Columbia.
“I didn’t invent the wheel. Barbershops are something of the past that used to be where the guys all went on the weekend and you know that gave them their downtime,” said owner Melanie Wright. “I just really felt like somebody needed to do it, but I didn’t know it was going to be me that God would have do it.”
Wright is a 20-year veteran of the cosmetology industry who owned Augusta Place Salon for nearly 14 years. But just two and a half years ago, the idea to actually develop a men’s high-end grooming place sparked her interest. Wright and her family came up with a name, design concept and music selection for the space in just one weekend.
“We wanted an old school barbershop, but on steroids,” she said.
The popularity of the first Frank’s Gentleman’s Salon led to an expansion in Columbia in the Vista and in Sarasota, Florida, where she sold her first licensed salon. She has four other investors interested in opening shops in other cities.
Walking into Frank’s transports you to a bygone era with a space dipped in dark-colored woods. Vintage lighting highlights the grooming and wash areas. Classic jazz and French tunes from the 1940s and 1950s plays throughout the space.
There’s a “mancave” where men can recline on plush leather couches and watch sports on a big screen television either before or after their appointment. There is also space to connect laptops to do work.
Men also can purchase a cigar to smoke outside or sip a beverage during their experience. Frank’s specializes in haircuts, straight razor face shaves, manicures, pedicures and facials.
The salon offers other specialty services like massages, brow waxing and hair color touch ups. Frank’s also provides shoe shine service. Wright said men who work around downtown Columbia can drop off their shoes and have them shined and delivered to their workplace.
These details are what Wright says set her shop apart from others. The goal, she said, is to develop a male-friendly environment that offers the kind of attention women are accustomed to in salons.
“I think it draws its inspirations from a lot of things that men enjoy and eras that kind of yield to a time that isn’t now,” said Harrison Cody Wright, Melanie’s son and manager of the Columbia location.
Wright personally trains each of her stylists on the San Diego-based haircare line Euphora’s “Seven Steps to Financial Success.” Frank’s is affiliated with Euphora and uses the philosophy to build a staff that is acutely aware of the client’s needs, according to Wright.
“From the time a man walks in the door, we cater to him and treat him like royalty. It doesn’t matter if you come in in cut off blue jean shorts or a three-piece suit, you’re gonna be treated the same no matter what you’re dressed like here,” Wright said. “So from the time you walk in we cater to you to the time that we put your jacket on you when you walk out the door and we lint roll the back of it. Our customer service is above and beyond what in today’s society we normally experience.”
The training has paid off as the stylist have benefited from learning how to personalize the customer experience.
Maria Bilotta said she was attracted to a job at Frank’s because Wright made her feel she could excel in her position.
“She wanted to encourage me to do more than I was expected to do,” Bilotta said. “It’s a different atmosphere than I’m used to.”
Harrison said he hopes to see an increase in business with the holiday season approaching and that he would love to add five more stylist by Christmas. For now, he said he hopes Frank’s becomes a destination for Columbia men to get a fresh cut.
“It’s really nice to hear that you get that sense of being the local neighborhood barbershop and its really what we’d love to be years down the road,” he said.
Frank’s Gentleman’s Salon is at 717 Lady St. More information on services can be found at Frank’s website.