In our feature on Harrogate’s independent retailers we head over to gentlemen’s hairdressers Barber & Mack, to talk to owner Michael MacKinnon about styling and customer service.
Opening the door to gentlemen’s hairdressers Barber & Mack is a treat for the senses; a babble of conversation and the click of scissors, the reassuring smell of male grooming products and the sight of barber’s chairs built like Cadillacs, all chrome and leather.
Michael has been cutting, trimming, styling, shaving and washing hair in the town for eight and a half years. In that time, he has created a business that combines traditional barbering and modern customer service and so reflects the type of customer that comes into the barber shop as much as the large mirrors do that run the length of one of its walls.
He explains: “There’s not a huge young market in Harrogate. Youngsters go away to university and don’t come back until they’re at least 35 therefore the tradition in the way we do things doesn’t scare an older generation.
“We have a healthy client base of men who are 60 plus. In some cases, we look after three generations of one family; grandfathers, fathers and sons.
“We don’t have a concrete mould ‘type’ of customer. Anyone is welcome at Barber & Mack; whether you’re an artist scraping a living or a CEO running a FTSE100 company, everyone is made to feel welcome,” he adds.
Michael has his mother to thank for getting him into the barber business. He decided as a youngster that he wanted to learn a trade that would enable him to start a business and, as he’d always been creative and enjoyed spending time with people, it was she who suggested he might consider hairdressing.
At 19 he got an apprenticeship with Toni & Guy in Leeds city centre, trained with them for two years and then spent the next five years working for them as a stylist.
Michael is quick to acknowledge that his time there helped him understand how a successful hairdressing business is run, not least the quality of the cut and of course the customer service.
Even the name Barber & Mack dates from that time as it came to him one day while he was on the bus to Leeds; simply combining what he does and his name seemed to work, he says.
The emphasis on service spreads over into the management of what he calls his “great team” of six barbers who provide the personality in the barber shop and without whom “the business would be nothing”.
He says: “They’re young trendy guys who focus on producing a gents’ tailored professional cut. We offer them the security of working in a proper business; all our guys are fully employed, they take a very fair percentage of every cut they deliver, they get holiday pay and pension contributions.”
The shop on Montpellier Street has dark flooring and comfy chairs and a settee and the shelves are neatly crammed with grooming products. Contrasting white tiling and those mirrors reflect the light and the bustle and give the place a bright, busy atmosphere as the team sets about styling the hair on Harrogate heads.
Alongside the stylists is a host who offers tea, coffee and soft drinks and moves around, keeping the spaces tidy and uncluttered and adding to the general sense of welcome.
Michael returns to his favourite theme of customer service for his own Harrogate indie gem which is Porco Rosso around the corner in The Ginnel. He loves what he calls the “European charm” of the place, its pizza, its great cocktails and wine list. The service is “top notch”, he says.
As for Barber & Mack, for the time being, Michael has the single shop but he would love to open more branches and give his team the opportunity to run their own businesses under the Barber & Mack brand.
But he cautions: “I won’t rush this process, we will grow organically and if I’m lucky enough to open additional branches, it will be because the customer demand is there.”
And the demand from Harrogate customers certainly looks like continuing. For Michael, working in the town is a huge pleasure. “I think Harrogate is just brilliant. The people are great and relaxed, we mostly enjoy a great quality of life, which is clearly reflected in the outlook of our typical client, hardworking, happy-go-lucky types, who seem to make their own luck,” he enthuses.
Website Link: www.barberandmack.co.uk