When he first started his career cutting hair at Sim’s Barbershop in Pittsfield, MA, master barber Steve Vilot would kick back and relax with a Jack Daniels and Coke. Nowadays, Vilot kicks back with a Jack in his shop—Barber Authority—in Lynchburg, TN, just 150 yards from Jack Daniels, the first registered distillery in the United States.
So just how did the official touring barber of Shady Records and the Dave Matthews Band partner with the top-selling American whiskey in the world?
Vilot started Barber Authority in 2007, which was a group of traveling, hand-selected barbers that would accompany him to provide haircuts at barbershop pop-ups at events like Lollapalloza, Coachella, Bonnaroo, X-Games and Sturgis.
In 2018, Shady Recording Artist Yelawolf opened his flagship store in Nashville for his Slumamerican clothing brand, and his space included a tattoo parlor and a Barber Authority location. The micro neighborhood was a popular attraction in the historic area of downtown Nashville until the pandemic hit.
“It was a great location, until everything closed,” says Vilot. Location is everything, as four doors down was a Jack Daniels merchandising store. “I became friendly with the Jack Daniels merchandising team and they invited Barber Authority to do a pop-up event in Lynchburg.”
Aside from knowing Lynchburg distilled the finest whiskey, Vilot discovered the town of 700 inhabitants had about 350,000 tourists a year and no barbershop. With the popularity of bourbon and whiskey growing in the 20 to 35-year-old demographic, spirit tourism is expected to rise in the upcoming years. After a successful event, both sides agreed: Every American city has a barbershop, so should Lynchburg! Vilot and his wife of 21 years, Juliette, plus their 20-year-old son Jackson, decided to relocate to Tennessee.
The partnership benefited both parties as Barber Authority and Jack Daniels were introduced to new audiences. The new Barber Authority Lynchburg shop is housed in a 1927 Texaco Station in downtown Lynchburg, just steps from the distillery. Before the grand opening this past August, the old building was lifted four feet from the foundation so all new pipes, wiring and infrastructure could be updated. Indian Motorcycles shares the building in bay 1 with Barber Authority in bay 2. “The location and set up is more like a merchandise tent,” says Vilot. “The distillery tour is just that, a tour. There’s nothing available during the tour, so when it’s over, people basically exit out in front of our shop.”
While merchandise like whiskey-dyed hoodies, t-shirts, hats, GIBS grooming and Actiiv products are available, hot shaves, beard grooming and haircuts are always in demand.
“Some people really love that I cut their hair and that I cut their favorite musical artists’ hair,” shrugs Vilot, who works alongside Sara Judge, an Aveda-trained stylist and Lynchburg native who recently returned to her hometown after four years of managing Artisian Barbers in New York City’s upper East side. The newly renovated space also serves as the perfect backdrop for instructional grooming.
“Andis, GIBS and Actiiv are slated to start shooting educational videos here,” says Vilot. “The backdrop of the gas station in Lynchburg, TN, creates a perfect atmosphere for sharing grooming tips. We’re always looking for new sponsors and ways to expand our educational platform.”
In addition, Jack Daniels is a prominent sponsor for Vilot and his Barber Authority team at their different events; some pop-ups even serve complimentary whiskey to patrons. Whether it’s on the road or in Lynchburg, if hair is hitting the floor and there’s a Jack and Coke, Vilot is a one happy guy.
For more information go to www.barberauthority.com.
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