Make your next haircut an experience to savour, courtesy of barbers-with-a-difference, Head Quarters.
Imagine a barbershop where you can enjoy a great haircut in a state-of-the-art grooming chair while enjoying exclusive products and a stylish interior – and even the chance to pull yourself a pint or make a coffee in a dedicated lounge.
That’s exactly what’s on offer at the first three salons of Head Quarters Barbers & Beverages.
Middlesbrough, Darlington and Bishop Auckland are the chosen locations for the metro-style barbershops opening on April 12, which promise to shake up the styling experience and create a wealth of jobs.
HQ is the brainchild of Mike Racz, of Racz Group, the face behind some of our area’s best-loved franchises – Domino’s, Costa Coffee and Anytime Fitness – in association with Richard Bland, a former director and shareholder of Saks Hair and Beauty.
“Head Quarters was born from the frustration Mike felt following a trip to get a haircut pre-lockdown,” Stockton-born Richard explained. “The whole experience left him feeling underwhelmed and Mike, being Mike, decided he wanted to do something about it.”
Not having any experience in the barbering sector, Mike put some feelers out and was eventually introduced by a mutual friend to Richard – who had fortuitously just moved back to the North-East.
Richard and Mike soon discovered that they shared a vision, and quickly aligned Mike’s ideas and business plan with Richard’s industry experience to bring barbering kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Richard explained: “HQ takes the best parts of a traditional barbershop experience and blends them with modern touches such as the bar area, great lighting, full-length mirrors and TVs in the windows, which work in real-time, updating every 60 seconds and announcing to passers-by when the next appointment is available.
“A Head Quarters app has also been created for customers to book and manage appointments with ease, as well as getting notifications of new offers.”
In addition to the cleverly designed, cutting edge environment, clients can indulge in an exclusive range of products designed specifically for Head Quarters.
“Many barbers rely on certain high street products or have a white label own range which is essentially the same products with a different label,” explains Richard, who is managing director across all three stores.
“Head Quarters has its own unique line created by a contact of mine in Dubai, which are sulphate-free and feature Oud, the Arabian fragrance for men.
“Currently we have five styling products, a shampoo and a scalp tonic, but we plan to extend the range into personal grooming products eventually.”
With the care and consideration which has gone into developing the HQ shops, choosing to site them next door to established Domino’s and Greggs stores seems like a strange choice, but Richard believes it’s a concept that will work.
“We are not the cheapest barbers, but we are not the most expensive either, and that doesn’t mean we can’t offer a really special experience to people from all walks of life. We want to appeal to a wide cross-section of people of all ages and to become a part of the community.
“Why shouldn’t the people of Teesside enjoy a great haircut in a fantastic environment with great staff who enjoy banter?”
HQ also welcomes women, a fact Richard is keen to underline.
“While barbers have been traditionally a male-dominated place, we are living in 2021,” he said. “Ladies are more than welcome to get their hair cut with us too!”
The new salons – which will hopefully be the precursors to a nationwide rollout of Head Quarters stores in three to four years – will be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week and will initially provide 10 jobs in each store – offering conversion courses for hairdressers who wish to add barbering as a skill and who may choose to work for HQ.
“Hairdressing has been hit really badly by Covid,” said Richard. “I know of many stylists from high-end unisex salons who expect to be challenged even when lockdown is lifted because their clientele may not be comfortable returning to a shop.
“For those people, HQ will be offering a conversion course, which is basically a fast-track course to a barbering qualification. While hairdressers will know the basics, there is a different skill to clippering and scissor work, which we will teach.”
Richard is also keen to encourage apprentices.
“Working for Head Quarters is about a career, not just a job,” he explained. “We want passionate young people who want to learn their trade in a cool environment and progress up the ladder.
“Because Mike is so switched on to new technology, marketing and media, this is not going to be just another hair job. We have the infrastructure surrounding us to make this a really cool place to be.”
Of his new venture, Mike said: “We looked at all the frustrations customers face when going to the barbers, and how we could make Head Quarters different. Our mission is to bring one of the oldest professions into the 21st century by introducing new technology across the board, from booking systems to the shop floor.
“We have booking available via our app, with live waiting times which can be seen as you drive past – so you will always know when the next barber is free – along with a freshly pulled beer or a coffee on arrival. We want customers to feel at home – it’s our living room and you are always welcome.”
Book your appointment and get £5 off – head-quarters.co.uk – or download the booking app from the app store: Head Quarters.