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For the Guy Who Wants More Than a Little Off the Top

BARBERSHOP DUO At MR., the owners Sean A. Heywood, left, and Kumi D. Walker

Jim Wilson/The New York Times


Published: November 14, 2007/The New York Times

PERHAPS it was only a matter of time before someone realized that what a certain kind of man wants while getting a haircut is a cold beer — preferably Chimay.
Two graduates of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Sean A. Heywood and Kumi D. Walker, envisioned such an experience a few years ago and have now opened MR., a combination barbershop, club and lounge in the business district of San Francisco.
“Our goal was to make it nicer than most of our clients’ apartments,” said Mr. Heywood, gesturing toward the 100-inch flat-screen television opposite the bar. “Our vision was-‘ What if we can create this sense of community?’ ”
When they were undergraduates together atBrown University, in Providence, R.I., away from home — Mr. Heywood grew up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn and Mr. Walker in Columbia, Md. — finding a hair stylist they trusted was not easy. When they decided on this line of business, they were sure they could find a market.
They decided that a shop serving all hair types represented a much bigger business opportunity and better reflected the professional community they wanted to create.
Currently, about 90 percent of MR. Members (there are members as well as walk-ins) are Caucasian men-reflecting the business neighborhood, Mr. Heywood said.
To help create a club atmosphere, the shop offers memberships, charging flat monthly rates that differ
depending on the services wanted. For $65 a month, a customer gets one haircut, one touch-up, shoe shining and a drink at the bar, which serves wine and beer.
There are costlier memberships that include more visits and more benefits. A walk-in cut costs
the same as a membership, $65. Both Mr. Heywood and Mr. Walker are well versed in the language of business school and can describe the barbershop’s “target demographic”: professional men, most making $75,000 or more, who shop at Barney’s drive a BMW or Mercedes-Benz and appreciate a duplex along the Embarcadero even if they cannot afford one.
The space that they found to appeal to such men has a loft like, red-brick-walled lounge area with several couches and the bar. It is a space that has a certain clubhouse mind-set, but is not stodgy, said Alex Clemens, founder of Barbary Coast Consulting, a communications firm, and an early customer.
“I was intrigued by the idea of a living-room lounge where even a dorky middle-aged white guy could go get an up-to-date haircut, watch some sports on a big screen TV and relax,” he said.
“Barbershops may not be sexy,” Mr. Heywood said. “But there’s nothing sexy about Wal Mart either.”

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