New Business Model:

Modern Style Meets Old-Fashioned Customer Service at Nic Grooming Barborshop

Nick Berardi remembers the day he realized his new business model was going to work. He was hanging out at his new hip barbershop, Nic Grooming, which he had just opened with his sons at 16th and Pine. As he recalls, “an Uber pulled up with four guys. They were in a band and were playing at World Café Live for a few shows. They got out in front of our shop because they were staying at the Airbnb apartments we opened on the second floor of the building. As the band members checked in they asked, ‘hey...can we get haircuts? Do we need an appointment?’” That’s when Nick and his sons knew their idea for a high-end barbershop that offered more than just a haircut and a shave was going to succeed. Most of us know Nick as the Nick in Richard Nicholas—proprietor of the self-named salon at 1716 Sansom Street. Richard Nicholas has been catering to an eclectic clientele for more than 30 years; at any given moment you might find a City Council member sitting next to a performance artist, and longtime Richard Nicholas stylists or younger, heavily tattooed stylists all work their magic and have clients looking fabulous in no time. Nick first started his salon back in 1971, in the space now occupied by Tiffany. He moved to the current location in 1983. In 2012 Richard Nicholas launched the Open Chair Studio, a workshop space for the beauty industry that hosts classes for stylists, as well as settings for photo shoots. In 2015 he opened his first barber shop, Nic Grooming, at 267 South 20th Street. The concept behind Nic Grooming is to offer a “lifestyle experience,” a new trend in barbershops that provides men with more than just the traditional cut and shave. The recent trend in high-end men’s grooming has expanded barbering from a $20.3 billion industry in 2015 to a projected $25 billion in 2020.1 Part of the appeal is that this industry is immune to the downturn retail stores have seen due to online shopping. “Barber shops, salons, and coffee shops are making a comeback," Nick says. “You can’t get these services online. If you look at Center City, there isn’t as much retail opening up—the neighborhood is going back to the old-school service industry.” Always looking for a new opportunity, he had his eye on the property at 16th and Pine. “I thought this corner and building would be a great space for a new business. Unfortunately, the building wasn’t for sale. And the owner was putting a coffee shop in the first-floor retail space.” Nick knew the building’s owner, Wayne Zukin, and kept asking Zukin to sell him the building. Eight years later, when the coffee shop moved out, Zukin offered to partner with Nick on the space. Nick would put another Nic Grooming on the first floor, and the apartments above the shop would be furnished and leased through Airbnb. “The reaction from the community has been overwhelming,” says Nick, who started out as a barber and understood barbering. When they first discussed the 16th Street shop, Nick’s sons, Nick Jr and Joe, wanted a different type of shop from the flagship salon. His sons pushed for a more casual and open atmosphere. They argued that younger people do not make appointments—they need to cater to a walkin/last-minute clientele. It was also important for Nick to create an atmosphere where people can drop in on their way home from work, have a beer, get a haircut, and stay for conversation— much like the traditional barbershops of the past. “The barber shops were a meeting place for the community. I want people to feel comfortable to stop by and just say hi. They don’t need to buy. We are more than a destination for a haircut.” He chuckles when he adds, “And women are sending their husbands and boyfriends to the shop. It’s great!” When you walk by Nic Grooming, what stands out is the light and openness of the shop. He says the neighbors appreciate that there is a new vibrancy to the corner now. Anyone who has passed either of the Nic Grooming locations has surely noticed the antique motorcycles displayed in the storefront windows, where Nick showcases his collection of more than 20 motorcycles. As of this writing, a 1963 Super Hawk was featured in the 20th Street window, and a 1970 Norton Commando at 16th Street. Nick will occasionally sell some of the motorcycles displayed—just make him an offer. So what’s next? The plan is to open several more Nic Grooming barber shops in and around the city; he will be looking for spaces that also accommodate apartment rentals. Noting that the Airbnb rentals have been phenomenal, Nick says “we are always fully rented—it is a great use of the space.” The added benefit for Nick is being accepted by the community, “It’s all about becoming part of the fabric of the community. This was such a surprise to us—to have the full support of the neighborhood. It is overwhelming. Guys walking home from work stop by, have a beer and stay. It is a destination for something other than haircut. It is a place to convene.” 1 Kyle Hagerty, “Barbershops Are Back and Bucking Retail Trends” https://www. com&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_ medium=email&utm_campaign=thu-06- jul-2017-000000-0500_national-re. Downloaded from on 9/7/2017. N

Written by Dawn Willis from Center City Quarterly