Most Saturday mornings on West Clark Street in Old Town Pocatello, people can be seen lining up outside a local business, sometimes even bringing camping chairs, waiting for it to open. People line up in anticipation for all sorts of things these days, but the fact that the business these patrons are queuing up outside is a hair salon is a bit out of the ordinary.
It’s a tribute to culture owner Brady Barrera has created at The Kingsman, which has been open since September 2017. From day one, he has tried to make a space where people like to be — where the services are simple and elegant and where the patrons are treated like family.
Each Saturday morning before he arrives, Barrera picks up a dozen doughnuts from Amazing Glaze for his customers to treat themselves to while they wait — sometimes for several hours — for their haircuts. (“I spend $1,000 a year on doughnuts,” Barrera says.) At lunchtime, fellow Old Town establishment Villano’s Italian brings over a pizza. All the while, clients chat and watch TV and generally take delight in being in the salon
The rest of the week, the salon operates by appointment, but on Saturdays it’s walk-ins only.
“I’m trying to build a movement where it’s not like you’re going in and you’re going to sit down and wait for your haircut,” Barrera said. “It’s like you’re coming into your friend’s place and you’re going to hang out.”
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Part of what makes the salon special is that Barrera keeps it simple at The Kingsman, only offering haircuts and facial waxing.
Until he branched out on his own, Barrera worked at another local salon where he did all kinds of services — from manicures and pedicures to perms and dye jobs. He eventually specialized in doing hair color.
“After several years, I became burned out,” he said. “So when I decided I wanted to go out on my own, I thought about what I wanted to do and the plan for the shop. The thing is, I wanted a place where all we do is cut and that’s the best thing that we’re at.”
Every customer who pays for a haircut gets their hair shampooed and conditioned, cut and styled. It’s simple, but meticulous and well done.
“Here, the biggest thing we do is customer service,” Barrera said. “We try to make everyone’s time in here is the best hour of their day. That’s the biggest feedback that we get, whether it’s the reviews or emails or text messages.”
He added, “People, they enjoy their time here. We have clients who are sitting waiting who become friends, who end up going on and hanging out with each other outside of the shop, and I love seeing that. Every little detail, we try to make sure is taken care of, and people respond to that. We have people who come in, they don’t don’t even have haircuts scheduled, and they come in and hang out. … We build relationships here, and that’s the biggest thing: taking care of people, making sure when they come in here they don’t want or need or ask for anything.”
According to Barrera, his hair stylists love the fact that they only have to focus on haircuts.
“Everyone loves it because they know there’s no guessing games. One haircut can take longer or shorter than another one, but there’s no not knowing what you’re getting into, and they love that because you can focus your mind and your hands on one thing.”
Barrera said that compared with chain salons, the hair stylists at The Kingsman are encouraged to take their time with each customer, and patrons are treated to things like coffee and W-Fi and Netflix to watch while they’re waiting.
“We go above and beyond with our service," Barrera said. "If you go to a chain place, they have a 15-minute time limit for a haircut and nobody knows each other. Everyone is in the waiting room looking at their phones. Here, we take our time, and whether it’s having amenities like coffee and Wi-Fi, just little things, you think about every little thing.”
Barrera carefully selected his hair stylists, and for several months was his only employee because he was waiting for the right people to come along.
Now, he employs three hair stylists other than himself and recently hired someone to work the front desk a few days a week.
“In any area of life, you can be the best, most amazing at something that you focus on or you can be good at many things," Barrera said. "Here, I want everyone to be just amazing at cutting hair. That’s what we’ve built our name on.”
GUTTING AND REIMAGINING
The interior of The Kingsman is also clean and uncomplicated. The main color you see is a soothing gray, with plaid wallpaper decorating the walls. There are a few splashes of color as well. On the desk, there is a leather phone.
In the beginning, Barrera had to put a lot of money into gutting and rebuilding the space. The floors were completely stripped. The plumbing and ceilings were redone.
Barrera said his shop was filled with all kinds of broken furniture when he first leased he space. He took most of it to the dump — it took four loads — but he kept some of it and rebuilt or repurposed those pieces.
What was his inspiration behind the design of his shop and the name? The 2014 movie “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
“I watched ‘Kingsman’ and it just hit me, ‘I love this. This is what I want my shop to be like,’” he said.
Barrera’s mom is a retired interior designer and he told her to watch the movie and design his salon based on it. That leather phone was the first thing they picked out and everything was built around it, according to Barrera.
Each hair cutting station is framed by an old hutch top. The waiting chairs were found among the rubbish and reupholstered; same with a couple of end tables.
The shop is just 550 square feet, and Barrera said he spent $20,000 just to get the door open.
“When I close my eyes and say ‘Kingsman,’ it’s like ding," Barrera said. "It has a ring where you can imagine what it’s like to be in a place called ‘The Kingsman.’ It’s proper, well-appointed.”
The logo for the shop was also carefully picked out. Barrera said he spent a long time trying out different things, but nothing quite worked.
“Nothing meant anything,” he said. “Nothing was important. Nothing meant anything to me or to anybody else.”
After finding out his grandfather had been a barber back in the day, Barrera looked up his family crest and, after a few modifications, that became the logo.
He emphasized his need to keep things simple in his shop.
“I want things as simple as humanly possible,” he said. “I want to keep things simple. I don’t want a lot of noise. I don’t want a lot of flashy lights or busyness. Strip away all the fat. … Everything is going to be simple and stripped down. It’s like a race car, you take out the AC, you take out the back seat, you take out everything and it will run efficiently as possible. … I try to keep things as stripped down and simple as possible, so there are no distractions — not even visually. There’s no distractions mentally, there’s no anything. I think that’s been the key to success.”
Well, whatever the key to success is, The Kingsman clearly has it. The business is busy all the time. During the week, they technically take walk-ins, but are usually so filled up with appointments that they have to turn people away.
“We just opened up six days a week and we still turn people away every single day,” Barrera said. “We tell people we’ll take walk-ins during the week when we can, but it’s very rare that we have openings.”
Because of that, Barrera said he needs to either find some way of making his shop larger or open a second location.
Additionally, Barrera has started his own line of beard products — including beard oil, beard balm and mustache wax — that his customers have loved.
“It’s a huge hit,” he said. “I actually wish we would have named it a different name (other than The Kingsman) because then I could sell it other places. Another barbershop isn’t going to sell another barbershop’s product with their name on it.”
The products are all-natural and are made with essential oils. Barrera gets the essential oils through Pocatello-based Time Laboratories and makes the products in his own home.
Eventually, he would like to work with Time Laboratories to expand their product line, including shampoos and conditioners.
“Just like the shop, when I focused my energy and whatever skills I have on (the beard products), in both instances, the product has been well-received,” Barrera said. “I think that’s the thing — just focus your energy on it and it will be good. It flies off the shelves.”
‘THERE’S ONLY ONE OLD TOWN’
Barrera is passionate about Old Town Pocatello and said that when he first started thinking about starting his own salon, “I didn’t look anywhere else but down here.”
“Every town has an old town, a historical district where it first started,” he said. “You can build new stuff all day every day, you can develop land, whatever, but there’s only one Old Town, and I love it. … There’s business owners, new entrepreneurs coming down here, really trying to revive the historical district and I just want to be a part of it because there’s only one. You take care of it, and be a part of it, and I think you’ll own a piece of history, own a piece of Pocatello.”
Barrera was in the process of trying to buy the building in which The Kingsman — along with Poky Dot Boutique and Pocatello Running Co. — is located, but the process was long and complicated, and eventually the deal fell through.
Despite that setback, he is still determined to make his mark on Old Town and is currently looking into buying other buildings.
“I want to make them great,” Barrera said. “... I look at other buildings that you walk by like the building next to Dan Gates art gallery (on West Center Street). It’s an amazing, beautiful building, but it’s boarded up with birds flying in and out of it, and I think if I could buy a building and put as much effort into that building that we put into this little space here, the sky is the limit.
"I just want to get something and make it amazing and let whatever happens happen. I think if you do something like that down here, if you take a building and make it great, it will take care of itself. People will come in and want to talk care of it with you.”
The walk-in-only Saturdays started only a couple weeks after Barrera opened The Kingsman.
“Working here by myself, I was booked all day, every day. I was turning away people every day,” he said. “After my second or third week, I said, ‘Everyone can come in on Saturdays and get in.’ That was one of the best and worst decisions I’ve ever made. This place would be full. Every chair would be full. People would wait in the extra barber chairs.”
He said some people have waited up to six hours for a haircut — but despite that, Barrera said, no one complains.
“Even if they wait four or five hours, nobody complains because they know what the deal is,” he said.
Barrera said he tells people on Saturdays, “We just want to take care of you, just relax. You’re going to leave here looking amazing. Sorry you have to wait four hours for your haircut.”
Even though no one complains, Barrera said he has big plans about how to make the waiting times even more enjoyable. He’s thinking about adding a Nintendo Switch and even starting a corn hole tournament.
“On Saturdays, we’ll do brackets,” he said. “If you enter in the brackets, you have to stay until the end, not just until your haircut is done or whenever. So there will be a competition, and we’ll have brackets to work down to the champion, and whoever wins gets a ‘head of the line’ card that they can redeem on any Saturday, so they can walk in at any time and they’re next.”
Making his business a fun place to hang out is vitally important for Barrera.
“It’s a different environment,” Barrera said. “It’s not just a haircut place. There’s a lot of things that go into it, and I think that’s what’s made it different than everything else that’s out there.”