With locations in Bishop Arts and Lakewood, and a third spot opening up inside the Adolphus, Brass Tacks has earned a reputation as the go-to throwback barbershop for guys who want classic cuts in a classic environment. With old wood, tattoos, and whiskey inside and a row of choppers outside, this place is impossibly cool.
We caught up with Brandon at the original Bishop Arts shop to talk to him about Brass Tacks’ history, his passion for entrepreneurship, and how he keeps his team creatively fulfilled.
LM: Brandon, first off describe Brass Tacks to someone who is completely unfamiliar with the brand.
BW: Well, we’re a throwback shop. We try to focus on classic looks and the classic elements of barbering. It’s an ‘everyman’ type of place, meaning we have folks from literally all walks of life here. Brass Tacks is just an old-school retreat for guys that has a sense of community.
LM: When you first opened the Bishop Arts shop, did you feel like it was fulfilling a need that was missing at the time?
BW: Not so much that classic shops didn’t exist, but the model seemed sort of dated. I don’t know that everyone from my generation felt comfortable in old-school shops, so we wanted to be in the middle. Having a young mentality with a back-to-roots aesthetic that stayed true to the traditional values of a barbershop.
LM: Do you consider what Brass Tacks does to be at the intersection of art and business? You see this resurgence of businesses that take craft seriously, do you guys fit into that model?
BW: That’s exactly it. We’ve all worked at places where we fell out of love with the craft of barbering, so we wanted to create a place where that wouldn’t happen. We also definitely wanted to flip the perception that you can’t make any money barbering, so everything we do from a leadership perspective is about putting barbers first so they can put the client first.
LM: So taking it back to four years ago, how did you get Brass Tacks rolling?
BW: I was working at a chain shop, and kind of just decided I wanted to do my own thing. Even going back to being a kid, I was always interested in having a business in one way or another, so I knew that that’s the direction I’d eventually go.
I started looking for a spot, and when I found it, we just started working. I didn’t really know what I was doing early on from a business perspective, but it’s been an awesome learning experience ever since. Just always trying to do the right thing.
LM: What made you choose Bishop Arts for the original shop?
BW: I was working at a salon nearby, and my girlfriend (now fiancée) and I would head down Davis to grab street tacos. I was on the prowl for a location and was coming up completely empty, then I saw this sign that said “For Lease. 700 sq ft.” So I called them up, and everything just seemed to align perfectly. They were looking for service industry businesses that also drove foot traffic, so it all worked out.
LM: ‘Brass Tacks’ is one of those names that’s such a perfect fit that we couldn’t imagine you being called anything else. How’d you pick it?
BW: When I was opening the shop, I didn’t want a name that would age poorly, and I didn’t want to name it after myself. I wanted something timeless that could stand on its own without any sort of logo. I wanted something that represented no frills and no gimmicks, and I had heard “get down to brass tacks” in some movies I loved, and it just seemed to fit.
I felt like it was true to what barbering is. It’s about great cuts, close shaves, and a no-nonsense approach. What more does a guy need?
LM: So looking at Brass Tacks today, you’ve got three locations, product partnerships, and your barbers are running a podcast. How important is it to continually find new creative outlets for you and your team?
BW: We never want our team to get bored, so we always find new creative ways to keep them going. We looked around and noticed that there weren’t any podcasts talking about what we were interested in, so we just created it. As far as brand partnerships, I just love talking to people, especially business owners. So partnering with other brands I respect just seemed to come naturally to us.
LM: Let’s talk merch. How would you describe your design style and how we’ve worked together to develop your merch line?
BW: Just like everything else, we keep it simple. What we love about our relationship with Legacy is that I can hand you guys something I designed and your team just runs with it. We stick to black & white with some grey, and the Legacy team always finds new ways to keep it interesting.
I really value that you guys give me your opinion and really take mine into consideration. As you guys know, I have some side projects as well that we’ve worked on together, and your communication has helped bring it to fruition. You guys always follow through for us, so I can’t see myself going anywhere else.
If you’re looking for a great classic cut, a beard & mustache trim, or just a killer place to pass the time, Brass Tacks is the place to go. No matter which of their three locations you check out, you won’t be disappointed. Check out what they’re all about and catch up on the podcast at BrassTacksBarbershop.com.