A step into the Barber Surgeons Guild is a step into the past. The barbers look ready for a prohibition-era night on the town in button-downs, vests, and the occasional fedora. The back wall is a ’20s-era man-cave with lounge seating, a wall of period books, and a readily available collection of whiskeys. Yes, you’re welcome to grab a glass. From the chairs to the barber capes to the tile walls and light fixtures, there is an effort to transport you to another place and time.
Keep going far enough, though, and you step right back into the future. The back of Barber Surgeons Guild is a state-of-the-art hair restoration facility offering a variety of services for its clientele. Robotic hair restoration, PRP, scalp camo, and more–if you want more hair than you have, or are worried about losing what you’ve got, they have the tools to help.
The name “Barber Surgeon” might sound strange, but it comes from a tradition more than 1000 years old. In the middle ages, doctors or physicians had a lot more in common with a medical school professor, a family doctor, or both. If you wanted surgery, you had to go to the other medical professions, the only ones who traveled and carried the knives needed for surgery–barbers. For hundreds of years, the jobs of haircuts and surgery were shared by this strange class of professionals, even being enshrined in English society with the creation of the Company of Barber-Surgeons in 1540.
The tradition, of course, fell off with the rise of the physician-surgeon and the surgeon-surgeon, but the archetype was fascinating for Ari Goldberg, the founder of The Barber Surgeons Guild. The company has two locations: one in Los Angeles and one in NYC. Downtown spoke to him about his unique business hybrid.
Downtown: Yeah, so you have a very unique aesthetic for a, I don’t know what the LA location looks like, but for the New York location I really liked the…it felt like a kind of 1920s theme.
Ari Goldberg: Yeah. The classic barbershop.
DT: How did that aesthetic come about?
AG: I think it’s just rooted in what we wanted to create with the brand. The vision was to combine consumer and medical. And then, from a brand perspective, I wanted to create something that was very much like a heritage program, like kind of a Double RL. It was rooted in history and timeless was a word that came up a lot. It all plays off of timeless. Or we would always say like a gentleman’s lounge. And then when you look at the history of the barber surgeon, you know, it’s a real thing.
DT: So why combine those two? Do you have a background in hair regrowth?
AG: No, I do not. My background is in marketing. My expertise is very deeply rooted in advertising. My initial starting point was to expand my career and my investment portfolio. I was interested in the convergence of consumer and medical. There were a lot of consumer brands but not so much the medical component.
DT: What inspired you to do that?
AG: I really just kind of seen the market opportunity. You know, I was the guy that cared about health and wellness and cared about style and appearance. I know there’s a lot of other guys like me. And having a healthy head of hair is obviously something that’s paramount, something of interest to a lot of us. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there on both the consumer and medical trends, and both come up with products and services. And I really wanted to create a brand that was good for the people around us–that had medical research and science to back it up.
DT: How do you convince people that you’re the real deal?
AG: Well, I think having a business partner that is a doctor was a big thing for me. I wanted this to be backed by medical research and science, you know, not some kid in Silicon Valley with that idea. Um, so that was it. Uh, you know, all of the ladies are verified. You know, we don’t sell snake oil, you know, “you put this on your head and your hair magically grows.” Like, it just doesn’t work like that. There’s no topical solution that you just rub on and magically you have a full head of hair. That’s why I’m trying to offer the full arsenal of products.
When we started the process, I said to them, you know, I don’t care about price right now. I want to create the highest quality products. That’s what we wanted to do as a brand.
DT: What specifically are you looking for in a barber?
AG: I think we’re looking for someone that’s obviously a master at his craft, who cares about it. You know, I think what’s great about the guys in (our shop). You know, they really see themselves as artisans and craftsmen. They take it seriously, which is great. We want them to be super personable and easy to talk to. We want them to have a trusting kind of bond with the client. A lot of times, especially as guys are starting to lose hair, it becomes a very sensitive subject. So we want someone that kind of shoots you straight, but you know, does it with a soft touch. And we want guys that are knowledgeable and interested in the products and services that we offer so they can educate the client on the options and the additional things that are available to them.
DT: what do you want people to know about your business?
AG: I want them to know that we created this for ourselves and for our friends and family. You know, we use these products every day. We want to create a product that we were willing to use, not something that we could just give to the consumer for the highest profit margin. It’s like you gotta be the customer you want–you gotta use the stuff too and believe it’s the best. And you know, we’re going out of our way. I use it every day because as far as I know, it is the best product out there. I get my hair cut (at Barber Surgeons Guild) because I think we have the best barbers. I think, in a way, it came from a selfish place because Justin and I are two guys and this is what we wanted and we knew that there were other guys out there like us and you know, we could formulate something around that.
New York City’s Barber Surgeon Guild is located at 345 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013