Shop Local: Gentlemen, Treat Yo Self At Baron’s Man Cave
Ed. Note: This article was originally published in 2016.
A few years ago, Donald Johnson found himself deciding between watching a big LSU-Alabama football game on TV and…getting a pedicure. He ended up at the local salon on a Saturday afternoon, where he realized he wasn’t the only guy in the room looking a little out of place in the pedicure chairs with no TV in sight.
Fast forward to 2015, when Donald and his business partner Dara Vongphrachanh opened Baron’s Man Cave barber shop in Germantown to cater to men like him who might appreciate a “treat yo’self” day in a masculine environment. I recently stopped by the shop to check it out and talk to Donald about being an entrepreneur and how his and Dara’s first year in business has been.
While it’s located in a Germantown shopping center, Baron’s interior has that popular industrial look, with reclaimed wood, exposed pipes, and lots of leather. At least one (but not all) of the barbers looks like he’s straight out of Brooklyn – think plaid, beard, and tattoos – so you know he’s gonna knock a hard part fade haircut out of the park.
There are no racks of nail polish to be found, but a chalkboard lists manicures, pedicures, and facials in addition to haircuts and shaves. Also, the manicure “bar” looks like an actual bar where you could grab a Ghost River and watch a game. The pedicure chairs are nicer than any I’ve seen at a traditional lady-oriented salon.
Here’s my Q&A with Donald.
Holly: Are you a native Memphian?
Donald: I’m not. I was born in Chicago and later lived in Atlanta. I went to Florida A&M University and got my MBA there before I was recruited to come to Memphis by International Paper in 2005. I stayed here in Memphis and fell in love with the city.
Holly: Where did the idea for Baron’s Man Cave come from?
Donald: My grandmother was a barber in Chicago, so I grew up spending time in a traditional, classic barber shop. I mean, she had a leather strap for hot shaves; it was a legit barber shop. I’ve always been attached to the industry through her.
But also, being in the corporate world, I was used to taking pride in my appearance and keeping up with myself, so I would go get pedicures. And it had to be on Saturday, and you know Saturday is college football day, so it was a struggle. I went to get my pedicure, and I remember just sitting there in my chair thinking, “This is OK, but it would be so much cooler if we had some TVs in here, some sports, and maybe a little bit more masculine.” There were two other guys in the nail shop at the time, and we just looked uncomfortable.
I discovered that there wasn’t really anything like what I was looking for, so my business partner Dara Vongphrachanh and I started brainstorming. Nine months later, we together came up with Baron’s Man Cave.
Holly: From the interior to the logo, Baron’s Man Cave has a distinctive look. How did that come together?
Donald: Dara and I hired a Memphis architecture firm, Braganza Group, and they took our concept and made it awesome. Then another Memphis firm, Hutzel Construction – they did Baer’s Den and Bounty on Broad – did the contracting. We did our logo and the rest of the design in-house. We didn’t want it to feel like Sports Clips or SuperCuts; we wanted something that was personal, but also unique and timeless.
Holly: How has the response been since you opened?
Donald: It’s been really good. Two things that are working for us: a) men appreciate finally having a place where they can go and get some of these services without being judged or feeling uncomfortable, and b) women love it because it’s a way for them to treat their loved ones to an experience. It’s astounding, the number gift cards and packages and groom’s parties the ladies have set up for their guys. It’s a great gift for a man that’s not another tie or sweater. We’re also in the process of considering expansion to midtown.
Holly: What if I, as a woman, wanted to come in to Baron’s Man Cave? Would that be OK?
Donald: Absolutely. We’re welcoming of everyone, and do have some female clients. I’d just remind you that we specialize in natural nail care, so we don’t have polish or gels or anything like that.
Holly: You’ve lived in several cities around the country: Chicago, Atlanta, Tallahassee. Why did you pick Memphis as the place to be an entrepreneur?
Donald: Memphis is a great city to start a new concept like this. The city seems to really get behind supporting local and supporting things that originate here. It also amazes me how well people are connected and know each other, like a big small town. That’s something you don’t get anywhere else, and it’s something the city should be proud of. That’s why you see such cool concepts growing up around the city, because Memphis seems like it’s breeding that type of entrepreneurial culture and that’s awesome.
I just want to say thank you to everybody who supported us. I don’t think we could have picked a better city to start in and want to be in and call home. I’m not even just saying that. As someone who was raised in Chicago and Atlanta, and to kind of be adopted by Memphis and appreciate the city and what it has…I wouldn’t have wanted to do this anywhere else.
Baron’s Man Cave offers natural nail care (manicures and pedicures), haircuts and shaves, facials, and eyebrow waxing. They’re open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. They’re closed on Mondays. Appointments are highly recommended.
Baron’s Man Cave
9289 Poplar Avenue, Suite 102
Germantown, Tennessee 38103