Hair falls to the ground around Drew as the low hum of clippers comes to a stop. Chris, settling in for his 1 o’clock appointment, leans back in his chair. This is most of the clienteles favorite part- the hot towel shave. As Drew, the owner of Masters Men’s Grooming, begins to wrap his client’s head in a warm towel, he without hesitation stops the music playing in the background, “Hey Google, stop music.” The seamlessness of the one-on-one service Drew provides his clients is made possible by one small almost cylindrical device- a Google Home personal assistant.
We found Masters Men’s Grooming- a men’s salon in SoCo, the arts area south of Colonial near Alliance of the Arts- after posting a notice looking for SWFL residents who utilize the digital assistants such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. While we expected to hear from parents who use such devices in their homes, Drew, a small business owner, was the first to answer our call. His use for it? Helping to run his barbershop.
“I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, myself. Always techy, even as a kid with a Tamagotchi and Nanopets,” Drew recalls of his childhood and what he says was the beginning of his interest in cutting edge technologies. Now, as a business owner, the digital pets are replaced with a digital assistant that he relies on to help run his barbershop. Instead of a receptionist, clients book their appointments through Booksy, a web app designed for scheduling; and you won’t find an apprentice barber or shop boy here. A smart vacuum helps Drew keep up with the shop’s cleanliness.
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The ambience of the grooming center is controlled by a Google Home device, and Drew invites his customers to request from it their favorite music or movies while they’re in the chair. “Google is a web of things, so everything connects through it,” he tells us as he cleans the hair that’s grown over one of his client’s ears. “Even our payments, we use Square [a credit card processing system that can run off a smart phone or tablet].”
Not everyone is a fan of the turn to technology, especially in an industry where appointments are typically made by calling in. One of his clients, who wished to remain anonymous, told us he was apprehensive about the move to web-based booking, lamenting that it’s just another app to download. “Everything… you need an app now,” he complained. The client eventually came around to the system, “I’ve been coming to Drew for 9 years. I go with it when he tells us about something new.”
The juxtaposition of Drew’s love for new technology against his old-school barbering style isn’t lost on him. “A goal of mine was to bring it back to the barbershop parlor feel… but we’re not afraid to explore new things,” he says, “I’ve introduced my clients to unconventional things within the barber industry.”