“Five years ago, we put London-Brooklyn on our first draft logos and my business partner and I said, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool one day?’” said Johnny’s Chop Shop founder Steven Ross. “Fast-forward five years, I’m sitting here doing this. There’s a sense of irony there.”
The dream has come true with the opening of the first Johnny’s Chop Shop U.S. location, in New York City at 154 Grand Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
The 700-square-foot barbershop mirrors the design of the U.K. outpost, with checker-patterned floors and vintage elements. Ross, who was responsible for the interior design, spent hours scouring the Internet for finds, and shipped counters, chairs, a pinball machine, and a neon tiger sign from England to be installed in the shop. “I’m passionate about interiors,” he said.
What sets the U.S. shop apart from its brother store across the pond in London is that it features artwork that nods to England, whereas the shop in England nods to the U.S.
“It mirrors the U.K. in terms of its interior — the mirrors, the neon tiger — but in the U.K. the references are more U.S.-based, meaning we have Stars-and-Stripes flags, we’ve got old Jeeps instead of London buses,” said Ross. “In the U.S., we thought it would be nice to have a nod toward the British and fuse the two together.”
The shop also carries Johnny’s Chop Shop branded grooming products, including hair clay, gel, dry shampoo, hairspray, beard oil and shampoo and conditioner, among other products that launched at Boots in the U.K. and 3,500 Walmart stores across the U.S. earlier this year. The products, which are developed by Ross’ barbers, took 18 months to produce for their initial run, and Ross said the products will launch at Walgreens and CVS later this year.
“Having brick-and-mortar is important because you can engage with people and they can come here and have that experience. I think it’s important for us to have this brick-and-mortar presence in the U.S. so that people can actually understand and relate to the brand,” said Ross.
Since its founding in 2015, Johnny’s Chop Shop has opened barbershops at Topman and a stand-alone location at 33 Marshall Street in London, and its products are available in 21 countries including the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia. Product sales grew 68 percent year-over-year at its own shops and other retailers, and barbershop sales are expanding at a rate of 40 percent a year.
Ross chose Williamsburg for his first U.S. outpost out of “pure coincidence,” he said. He explored Bushwick and other parts of Brooklyn before stumbling across the Williamsburg space one year ago this month. “I saw it in July and was hoping to be open by Christmas,” said Ross.
He’s not expecting an overnight success here, however. “It’ll certainly be a slow burn here as from my experience,” said Ross. “I’ve been in this business for 25 years, and I know from experience that most barbershops take a little bit of time to build up, because people tend to be quite loyal to their barbers and they don’t tend to try somewhere new unless they have to.”
Although there are no plans to add other U.S. units at this point, Ross is hoping to create buzz for the Brooklyn unit through the company’s partnership with Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, who he predicts will be very popular in the country soon, and English model Marcus Butler, as well as Johnny’s Chop Shop TV, where barbers show men how to style and maintain their hair after a haircut.
“My son would go to the barber, come out looking super sharp, wake up the next morning and be like, ‘What can I do?'” Ross said. “There’s a whole series of educational pieces. I think guys need to know what to use.”