Monday, March 18, 2013

Skin in the Game

California’s Mohawk Matt is a barber. Not a cosmetologist. Not a stylist. 

Barber Chair
Matt is Old School.

Ever since he was a kid, Matt dreamed of opening his own barbershop. The old-fashioned kind, a showcase of the ancient tonsorial arts, updated and upscaled. A place where folks come in to have a shave and a trim (“Whatever haircut or shave you can think up.”), and share in a unique community experience.

"Reports of the death of the American barbershop are greatly exaggerated," Matt said, several years ago. "I will reinvent the experience for all men and boys in America."

Add bowling, shuffleboard, root beer, and a vintage shooting gallery, and you start to get a flavor of Matt’s lifelong vision.

It took a while for Mohawk Matt to achieve his goal. First, the former Matt Berman went to college, earning his stripes in the liberal arts, broadcast journalism, and advanced business management. Then he travelled the world as an international marketer.

But his dream wouldn’t die. One day the New York native cashed out of the corporate world and moved to the west coast to indulge his childhood passion. Along the way he assembled a collection of tonsorial art and memorabilia, including a DS Art print of the Barber Chair drawing.

That particular picture really got under Matt’s skin. Literally. He liked it so much, that he decided to have the entire image permanently applied to his torso. Back in ’09, the judges at the Body Art Expo in Pomona liked it, too – awarding Matt’s tat (and artist Luis Arias) First Place for Best Unusual Design.

I salute them both for their patience and endurance, but mostly I salute Matt for his tenacity. For knowing when to quit, and when to start something better.

Barely four years old, Bolt Barbers was voted Best Barbershop in downtown LA by readers ofThe Downtown News in 2011, and again in 2012. That’s just one of Matt's two locations, not counting the travelling Bolt Barbers ON SAFARI – a 1954 aluminum travel trailer, restored last year into a vintage mobile barbershop. This July, Matt’s enterprise expands to Las Vegas, boarding a 1967 Union Pacific Caboose and 1950's box car – the Bolt Barbers Monkey Train.

It’s a good bet he’ll keep growing, too, and trimming. “Happiness comes from pursuit of passion, not ambition!” Matt says.

Hats off, and a little off the top for my friend Mohawk Matt, for hanging on to a dream, then making it happen.

There just aren't enough of us out here doing that. 

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