Sam Buffa, a former professional motorcycle racer, was inspired by his experiences at barbershops abroad. So much so that with $80,000 of his own money, he opened a small barbershop in New York City — Williamsburg, Brooklyn to be exact — named Fellow Barber. That was 2006.
Blueprint for Success
Since its inception, Fellow Barber has grown to 15 locations around Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco, offering a namesake line of award-winning grooming products. The brand caters to a discerning clientele who seeks a hassle-free, yet high-quality, barbering experience without the pretensions of a salon.
“The ideal barbershop experience is one that’s high-touch, where top-level technical skills meet warm, intuitive human connection,” Buffa says. “We want our clients to get the best of what our barbers have to offer in terms of style and expertise, but also through energy exchange, conversation and one-on-one attention.”
With its unique value proposition, Fellow Barber’s success hasn’t slowed down, even despite the pandemic.
After closing all of its doors during the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, Fellow Barber was able to maintain its business, keeping all locations afloat. To ensure his employees were taken care of during the lockdown, Buffa raised over $70,000 in funds to help support his workers getting back on their feet during tough times.
West Coast Expansion
Buffa took advantage of an opportunity during the pandemic to expand Fellow Barber’s footprint in Los Angeles as well.
Rudy’s — a Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles-area staple barbershop — was forced into bankruptcy after selling a majority of its business to a private equity group years prior. Wanting to reclaim its stake, Rudy’s original founders were able to buy back all locations with a $2.5-million bid. Though the founders had hoped to keep all the shops open, they knew that to stay afloat, that couldn’t happen.
Buffa decided to purchase Rudy’s four Los Angeles locations, both to help the iconic duo that had inspired him, and to expand his own brand.
Fellow Barber has also spawned a new barbering subculture. Fellow raised the overall barbering wage nationwide, offers full health benefits, a high commission structure, the ability to make a six-figure salary, as well as room to grow up the ladder in the company.
“At Fellow Barber, we treat our staff as artists, and have always wanted to make them feel valued as such,” Buffa says. “Within the company, we offer our professionals a stability they might not find in other parts of the industry. From full health benefits, the ability for upward mobility, high-earning potential, plus support via marketing, PR and brand equity, we put into motion initiatives that ensure our staff don’t feel just like employees, but respected talent and Fellow Barber community members.”
In early 2022, the company plans to open two new New York City locations, one of which is slated to become its flagship. Not only will the latter location offer consumer services, but also act as an educational hub for budding barbers.
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