In the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a man shoots some pool with his buddies, while over at the bar, a friend from his gym sips on a glass of scotch. The TVs are all tuned to the big game. He overhears his boss ask the guy behind the counter about a VIP access program that he’s wondering if he should join. Is this the new, swank nightclub in this sunny beachside metropolis? Hardly. It’s actually ManKind — a salon that caters exclusively to men.
HISTORY OF MANKIND: Owner Lee Garipoli saw an opportunity and used his business savvy to take it all the way. “I thought a men’s salon was something that was in need,” he says. “My grandfather was a barber, and it left an impression on me. Also, I worked as a golf professional and general manager at a country club for 10 years. I think it was a combination of these two experiences that inspired me to open ManKind.”
Garipoli’s first foray into the beauty industry, ManKind opened its doors in March 2005. He choose downtown Fort Lauderdale as the salon site because of its easy access to the executive men ManKind is trying to reach. The balance of business and residential districting helps bring in a steady stream of local businessmen.
MANSCAPING THE SALON: The 2,000-sq.-ft. salon’s layout and design are clearly focused on the testosterone set. When clients walk in the front doors, they see the barber shop to the left and a pool table to the right. Next is a bar and a big-screen TV. Down a hallway is the spa.
The salon doesn’t need a liquor license to serve alcohol — it offers beer, scotch, and wine — since it gives the drinks away for free.
The extensive service menu at ManKind includes traditional offerings like hair, nails, skin, massage, and shaving, but also boasts an array of other services like a steam room, shoe shine and repair, dry cleaning, and a tailor. “When it comes to men, they’re typically lazy and would rather establish rapport with one place they know and trust, than a variety of different places,” Garipoli says. “Plus, for the executive clientele we cater to time is always an issue. More amenities means it’s more convenient.”
About 10% of ManKind’s business is nails. Manicures are sometimes performed at the barber chairs during haircuts and shaves. For spa pedicures, the client sits on a large, comfortable chair that’s facing a TV and is offered headphones. “They’re encouraged to drink a beer and relax,” Garipoli says. Paraffin dips are also on the menu.
Price-wise, ManKind charges slightly more than other salon’s in the area. “We take pride in the fact we’re better than anywhere else,” Garipoli says with true manly bravado. “It’s because of the quality of service and our attention to detail.”
For men who want to take the salon experience home, ManKind retails skin, hair, and shaving products. The product lines it sells are exclusively for men, like Redken for Men and The Art of Shaving.
Gift certificates are available in person and via the salon’s website, www.mankindformen.com. Garipoli says about 50% of gift certificate sales are women buying gifts for their husbands and the other 50% are men buying for other men (like for a friend’s birthday or an office gift exchange).
PARTIES AND “CLUB”BING: Proving that spa parties don’t have to be girly slumber-party type events, ManKind offers groomsmen and bachelor’s party packages. “It’s a great kick-off party,” Garipoli says. “They get tightened up, then go right from here to the event.”
Since it’s already decked out with the pool table, big-screen TVs, and beer on tap, the space is also available to rent for other private events.
The salon also recently introduced “The Club,” a VIP program for salon regulars who want added benefits. “The club was an idea I’d had a long time ago, since I’d previously worked at a private country club,” Garipoli says. “People in general like to be part of something, and it gives members a way to network and socialize with like-minded people.”
With membership prices ranging from $500 (Steam Only) to $2,500 (The C.E.O.), perks vary depending on membership level and include reserved appointments, 10% off products, 15% off the first tailor-made suit, and private members-only events. The fee also includes specific services, such as unlimited haircuts or a specific number of massages. About 30 clients have already signed up, and Garipoli plans to cap membership off at 100.
ROLL CALL: Slightly more women than men work at ManKind. The barber staff is mainly men; the spa staff is mainly women. Garipoli says cosmetologists and nail techs choose ManKind for the same reasons they would choose any other salon: “We have a quality reputation in the area and a good clientele,” he says. “People know they can work here and make money.” ManKind occasionally sends employees for continuing education, like when adding specialized services, another of the perks of this unique salon.
WORLD DOMINATION: During the two years ManKind has been open, Garipoli says sales have grown significantly across the board. The salon now has its eye on expansion. The Fort Lauderdale site will soon be selling cigars and an outdoor patio is already in the works.
There also are plans to open a second location outside of Fort Lauderdale. With amenities and a design like this, it’s not surprising that a salon could be the hot new men’s hangout.
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