Jennifer Poff Cooper | Contributing writer
“We’d all had enough of a corporate setting,” says Patti Schrantz of herself and the other subcontractors at Brownstone Barber Shop in downtown Blacksburg.
“Working in a corporate setting really takes out the personal relationships that automatically go with cutting hair. After a few years, one comes to not enjoy the workplace anymore, and when you don’t enjoy work, it’s time to make a change.”
So, after working as a beautician in a full service salon catering primarily to women, Schrantz decided to take up barbering in 2009 at age 47.
“Women’s hair care is quite extensive and time consuming. (Barbering) was different and the same at the same time,” said Schrantz.
Brownstone Barber Shop is an LLC, formed by Schrantz and Priscilla Knott, which opened Dec. 15. It currently has four subcontractors, including Knott and Schrantz, with space for two more. The other barbers are proprietors Kim Booth and Kristina O’Berry.
Schrantz enjoys the intergenerational aspect of the shop – four generations of hairstylists work there. Since the ladies don’t work for any one person, Knott and Schrantz have to make sure that one of them will be in the shop during extensive operating hours, seven days a week.
The timing was right for Schrantz to make the change.
“Both my boys were graduated and married and out of the house, so I had the time and energy to promote and build (the business),” said Schrantz.
At her age, she felt it was “okay to step out and pursue other things — and take a chance.” The concept was ripe for success as well.
“Men’s hair and styles really started booming. There’s a huge need for men’s styling these days. There are also men specific hair care lines, whereas a long time ago, it did not exist. Men appreciate the trends and hair care products,” Schrantz said.
Co-founder Knott has been doing hair locally for 25 years, with a client list that includes Frank Beamer and many other well-known coaches. Having owned her own salon for ten years, her experience made her believe that this venture would work in Blacksburg.
While Schrantz feels like she may lose some of her women’s hairstyling skills, she is now more confident in men’s cuts and what works and what doesn’t. She feels sure enough to help them make decisions about styles.
Schrantz also attributes their success to location.
“Downtown Blacksburg is amazing,” she said.
The shop is close to campus, three blocks from the stadium, on a very busy corner, and near permanent neighborhood housing with a nice storefront and parking.
“The people in Blacksburg tend to support local businesses rather than big box chains,” Schrantz and her fellow barbers have found.
For funding, both Knott and Schrantz took out home equity lines to buy and do all the things necessary to open: equipment, website, licensing, insurance, rent deposit and, of course, the barber pole.
Her marketing focuses on networking originating with her current clients as well as a strong online presence.
As for future plans, Schrantz said she and Knott would like to franchise and have another location.
Schrantz does not miss the quotas, paperwork, scripted conversations or prescribed timeframe for every cut that came with haircutting chains.
“I’m much less stressed, as all of us would attest, just because there are not silly corporate expectations put on us,” she said.
She also likes knowing that people’s hair looks “awesome and that we touch people’s lives one head of hair at a time.”
Schrantz said, “There’s a whole big fun world out there and you have to think outside the corporate box. Life’s too short to say ‘what if?’”