Located in the state capital of Minnesota, Fella's Haberdashery and Salon offers a unique combination of goods and services. Schedule an appointment for a haircut and beard trim or visit the shop and purchase some new grooming products or a great outfit to perfect your look. Regardless of which you choose (the smart ones do both), I highly recommend introducing yourself to Justin Iovinella, the founder and mastermind behind Fella's.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and chatting with Justin this past week. Justin is a men's hair specialist and stylist who excels in all facets of the trade; fades, tapers, classic cuts, creative cuts, razor cuts & kids cuts. Even from my short interaction with Justin, I could tell that customer service, personal relationships, and enjoyable experiences, are integral to Fella's culture and success.
For those that are unfamiliar with “haberdashery”, can you give us a definition of the term?
A lot of people have these ideas that a haberdashery is a place that a guy can buy a hat or that they make hats. A haberdashery is basically a place where goods are sold to men, whether they are dry goods, soft goods, or a service.
I noticed on your website that you are transitioning to online retail soon, why the shift?
It’s one of those things that we want to work on. Anytime you can give people access to what you carry online, I feel like it will help. It helps them see what we have and therefore entices them to come into the store a little bit more. It’s also something difficult in undertaking, like lining up what you have in the shop and the online inventory. Making sure everything is in real time is key so you’re not caught listing a specific product as available, when in reality, you don’t have it. With all of the things we have going on, it is definitely something we want to tackle, but we are about to do an expansion of the in-store, first, before we do anything like that. It is definitely on the horizon for us though.
Why combine a salon with a store, and vice versa? Was that always your vision?
I have been cutting hair for 20 years. I have been specializing in men’s hair. I never thought to myself that I wanted to put the two together. As you grow and pursue a passion, you try things out and you see things being tried out by others in your industry. You kind of start to massage the idea and start realizing that certain things could work. I have some clients that were going to a clothing store in downtown Minneapolis, it’s a really big one, and we shared a lot of the same clients. So, about 8 years ago, I went down there and talked to the owners about allowing me to put a chair in their shop. We shared a lot of the same clients and I was looking to diversify and mix things up. They said, “no”. Now they have one.
Then, I went over to the only other haberdashery in town, who also have barbers there, and I said, “Hey, I’m looking to expand in St. Paul, can I apply for a position as a hairstylist?”. They said, “Are you a barber?” and I repeated, “No, I’m a hairstylist”. They told me that they were only taking barbers. So, I decided, I’ll just do it myself and I’m going to get it done.
When you can provide a service and then you can put products in front of those people, part of it is kind of like giving guys time back. They can come in here for a haircut, but then have this experience with retail. Just because they walked into the store doesn’t mean that they have to buy retail though. They come in for a haircut, but they might see something that they like. They get to look around while they’re waiting for a cut and that helps transition some goods for us as well. We want to be a spot that is a go-to for your grooming needs and we’re focused on curating a specific set of goods. The kind that help our guys be the best that they can be on a day-to-day basis. It’s been fun. The other part, too, is the romantic idea. Creating a business where my wife and I can take off a couple of times a year to go do a work trip, like going to the shows and scouting out more merchandise to bring back to the shop.
People are shifting towards large chains and franchises when it comes to choosing their salons, what are these people missing out on?
To be honest, they’re missing out on more of a personalized experience. When people look at the cut prices and people explain, “Oh, I just go to one of the big chains because they can get me in and it’s a cheap cut”. The problem is, they go all the time. They say they are ‘getting a cheap cut’, but when you actually run the numbers on a haircut, they are missing a few things. The cheap cut doesn’t grow out the right way and they end up getting their haircut more often. They end up spending almost as much as they would if they went to the right spot and got their haircut at the right time. At Fella’s, we specialize in making sure that guys have haircuts that grow in well. It’s nice to experience what different lengths look like and how that adds to your style. We really focus on individualizing the service. At the big chains, they’re geared to pay their employees on a production level. Some people will take a lot of pride in what they’re doing, regardless of where they work. Most others may just look at you as a number and fly through the haircut and not really put a lot into it because it’s a $10 to $12 cut.
A stylish look doesn’t simply end with a shave or a haircut, it is necessary to practice consistent, healthy grooming habits for the best results. What is your advice for a man that wants to look his best 24/7?
Really think about getting up and getting ready for work every morning. Think about how you want to represent yourself. Find the right products and the right services that will allow you to do that. Then, set it and forget it. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you get ready. Find products that work well for you, and that are consistently working well for you, and stick with them. Lastly, trust other people to take the reigns for you. You can’t do everything. Explain what you want and explain how you live your life. Every once in awhile, give it up to somebody who is a professional to suggest, “You know what, maybe this would be the best haircut for you, or this would be a really good look for you. This kind of bleeds into your work life and it gives you the clothes, the style, that will allow you to have a social life. So that you’re not pinned down as a work guy, but you’re not just super casual all the time either”.
On your website, you advertise your stylists and their work, preferences, and styles, similar to how tattoo shops showcase their artists, why?
One thing that I like about doing hair is that no matter who I work for, and whether or not I agree with how they run their shop, I’m working there. Personally, I’m still dealing with clients and clients are still coming to me because of what I do, regardless maybe my ownership, or what their ideas and views are. So, when you work for somebody, you still have the opportunity to be an individual. I’m the guy that when you tell me that you have to do something one way, the first thing I think of is all of the other ways that you could do it because there is no one way to do it. I want my stylists to be individuals. When people look for somebody that is going to line up with them, it’s nice to have an idea and a personable relationship with your stylist. Everyone is different and they all offer something different than the others. I wanted that to come through on our site and I wanted to give people the opportunity to see who we are because at the end of the day we are only as good as the people around us. If they’re doing well, I’m doing well. So, I’m definitely into promoting them as individuals within our company.