Shorewood - There are two barber shops on Oakland Avenue - and they just happen to be next to each other.
The Men's Room Barber Shop and Joe's North Shore Barber Shop sit side by side. However, the designer shampoo, conditioner bottles and many LCD televisions that fill The Men's Room are a far cry from the Italian music and pictures of the 'old country' that set the tone at Joe's. The barber shops opened eight years apart, Joe's in 1992 and The Men's Room in 2000.
In this North Shore community, new shops - including hair salon Run With Scissors and skincare and massage business So-Solace - are popping up to compete with the many businesses that have served Shorewood for many years.
Experience a selling-point
The two competing barber shops could be said to represent 'old-school' and 'new-school' in the realm of style and tradition-and in this battle, feathers have been ruffled. Joe D'Acquisto represents the 'old school' as owner of Joe's, and said another barber shop moving next door is obviously bad for business.
D'Acquisto moved from the town of Portobello in Sicily 42 years ago. He learned to cut hair and owned a barber shop there. Having been a barber for so long, he argued that he can keep up with whatever the Men's Room specializes in.
"I can do any style, better than them," D'Acquisto said. "Probably, some of those girls are still in barber school, and I have 55 years of experience."
Joe's patrons are welcomed by Italian music playing throughout the old-fashioned shop. A cross and pictures of Sicily hang over the antique cash register, and the sound of the clippers blends with the music.
Joe's customer Julianne Maggiore said her family is loyal to D'Acquisto; all of her boys have gone there for haircuts since they were 6.
"We feel very loyal to Joe, and we are Italian. … We love hearing the Italian music, and it is very relaxing for me to sit here and wait," Maggiore said.
Modernity meets tradition
The Men's Room only cuts men's hair, and also offers straight-razor wet shaves, coloring, hair loss treatments and more. The business blocks off 45 minutes for every haircut. The barber shop floor features six chairs all equipped with personal LCD televisions, which customers can set to whatever channel they want. Trendy music is played over speakers throughout the shop.
Men's Room owner and manager Trish Krumins said she created the barber shop because she felt there wasn't a place for men to get a great haircut.
"You could either go to your father's barber or your mother's stylist, and I thought, where does a guy go that is making good money, drives a nice car? … Where does he get his haircut?" Krumins said.
The Men's Room takes a unique approach to hairstyling, she said.
"We go back to the old-school way of cutting hair, the way that Joe does … but we take the old-school fundamentals and the new-school style, and we get there the old way but it comes out the new way," she said.
All of the stylists at The Men's Room go through an extensive training program, Krumins said. Men's Room Stylist Megan Abrahamson said she trained every other weekend for four to five months, and can now cut anything from a 30s-style haircut to a modernized mullet.
Price points differ
Krumins said there has been no ill will toward the neighboring barber shop.
"Obviously as a barber, I really respect Joe; he has been cutting hair forever," Krumins said.
In fact, she doesn't mind referring some people to his business.
Haircuts at The Men's Room start at $28 and at Joe's they start at $15. When people come in and balk at the $28 price, she recommends Joe's.
"It works out well that way, we end up giving him business," Krumins said.
For Men's Room customer Adam Suring, the extra amenities at The Men's Room make the price worthwhile - and that is why he travels from Germantown to get his haircuts.
Both shop owners said the economy has had a minimal effect on business in a community that just lost Open Book, a bookstore co-op, after less than a year. Where else could people go to choose from a traditional haircut or a modernized mullet?
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