There's been something of a barbershop renaissance in the last few years. At the apex of the industry in Montreal stands Mint Barbershop.
We chopped it up with Mike and Kaneil from Mint in our continued effort to keep you looking your best.
So much more than just a place to get your hair cut, we hope that this conversation helps you guys discover a truly remarkable Montreal experience.
And, of course we'll have a taste of the experience in store at our launch event on Thursday, March 5th!
The Montreal Barbershop Experience - Mint Barbershop
How did you guys get started in the business?
We were all working at different barbershops and we realized that we were tired of the “same ol’ same ol’”; the grind. We decided that our customers deserved something more, something better. Yes, it is obviously about cutting hair, but at Mint we make getting your hair cut an experience.
For example, we have a lounge area, coffee for all of our clients, a PS3, movies, chess and even wi-fi!
What was the process like?
Next month, it’ll have been 2 years since Mint was opened. The concept came to us about 3 years ago and it was about a year in the making. We really wanted to make sure that we got everything right.
It seems like Mint is more of a brand than just a place to get your hair cut.
Definitely. Having the best barbers is only going to get you so far, you need to offer the client something more. We talked about the experience of the shop before (we also have Mint merchandise) but it’s important that our customers are getting what we feel is the authentic ‘Mint experience’.
Every member of the team brings something to the table. We joke that it’s very much like Sons of Anarchy where we all sit at a round table in the back and take decisions as a group before we bang the gavel.
I see that you guys recently launched your new website. (www.mintbarbershop.com)
Yea, we wanted people to have an idea of how it felt to be in the shop because Mint really is an experience. Clients seem to be loving it and people can now book their appointments online and we have it all synced up with our iPads on the walls here.
How did you personally get started in the industry?
I stumbled upon it many years ago after high school. I used to cut my friends’ hair before a lady offered me my first real job, which was as a barber in her salon. I later moved to Toronto. I’ve always wanted to have a different experience in a barbershop. I remember in the 90s before the internet boom, I wanted an internet café in a barbershop. It’s all about giving more to the customer and building that relationship.
So how did you meet your partners?
The barber industry is big, but in a small way. We’re a pretty tight-knit community. Eventually it just made sense for us to come together. It’s a really nice feeling to see how we’ve developed in a really organic way. There’s nothing better than sitting around discussing business strategy and knowing that everyone is striving towards the same goal.
How many barbers were in the shop when you guys started?
Oh wow, we were maybe 3 or 4 guys when we started. As you can see, we’ve grown to 7 and there are no signs of slowing down. We even had to take down our merchandise wall to make room for more chairs. At this rate, eventually we might have to knock down some walls!
What does the future hold for Mint and the barber industry in Montreal?
I think that even at this point, we’re just starting out. The industry is growing and who knows, we could end up expanding all over the province and beyond. We definitely feel that we offer our clients the best experience in the business.
What’s your philosophy about cutting hair?
I really believe in giving the customer what they want. Yea, you want to help him impress his girlfriend, his family, his friends and so on but you don’t want the customer sitting there not feeling comfortable with his own hair.
So, what’s the most popular or ‘go-to’ haircut right now?
(Mike) Combovers and undercuts are definitely in right now.
(Kaneil) I think it’s a variant of the David Beckham cut. You can wear different styles, but it’s more like a loose combover.
What’s the difference between cutting with clippers and scissors?
(Kaneil) You can’t limit yourself, you gotta learn everything and be as flexible as possible to make your clientele happy.
(Mike) Cutting with scissors is definitely more complex. For most barbers, they need to work on learning the scissors, while at salons they might have less experience with clippers. At Mint we’re ‘hybrid barbers’ – you’re getting the best of both worlds here. Everyone is welcome at Mint, to the guy from the barbershop or the salon.
Our philosophy is, “you got to fade like a barber, and cut like a stylist.”
What’s the biggest struggle you guys have faced so far?
(Mike) Should we tell him?
(Kaneil) Yea let’s do it.
(Mike) Our biggest struggle has been finding ‘Mint barbers’. There are lots of skilled barbers out there but as we’ve mentioned, we don’t see ourselves as just a barbershop. Our barbers need to be able to provide an experience that is up to the high standards that the Mint name carries.
(Kaneil) At the end of the day, it’s about humbling yourself. Many barbers who have been using clippers for years will come into the shop and see that there’s a lot more scissors work involved here. Instead of saying, “I got this”, you have to take the time to learn.
It’s hard to find guys who will leave everything at the door and learn everything from scratch, even how to interact with clients. Customer service is paramount here.
Any closing words?
We’re unique in the sense that we don’t have a target market. Mint is a community barbershop.
We want the moms to come in with their kids, the students, the adults, everyone.
We really believe in giving back. We’ve done shave-offs for cancer. We’ve worked with the Alouettes for Movember. It is very important to for us to be community focused. Our ‘Mint TV’ solidifies this point. We allow local businesses to advertise on our TV screens, so clients can get to know what's available locally.
So it’s fair to say that you guys are here to stay?
We’re here for the long haul. We didn’t work this hard to make a quick buck. We want to be timeless and to engrain ourselves in Montreal culture.
We’ll keep working hard to make sure that happens.