House of Handsome opulent barbershop opens in Dormont
When barber Michael B. purchased a ramshackle storefront on West Liberty Avenue in Dormont, his friends and customers compared the investment to themes of the Tom Hanks comedy movie “The Money Pit.”
“I didn’t quite get it,” said longtime customer Zack Wininger of Sharpsburg. “I just saw a hole in the wall on West Liberty Avenue.”
But three years and $641,000 later, Michael B.’s House of Handsome Barbershop and Boutique is exactly as he envisioned it. The furniture is custom, the wallpaper is hand-screened, the water is set to a precise 112 degrees, the proprietor wears a three-piece suit and the record player spins “Jazz in Paris Vol. 6.”
Once home to a gunsmith, the 2,500-square-foot building had to be gutted to the studs and emptied of 26 tons of debris, including about 50,000 spent gun shells.
“It took me three months to find the right broom,” Michael B. says.
That kind of meticulousness and the liberal use of gold — it’s in the light fixtures, the ceiling, the curtains, even the facial masque — creates a kind of swanky 1920s hotel vibe that Michael B.’s previous, more traditional Dormont shop lacked.
“I’d pay just to walk in there and sit down,” Wininger said. “What’s there right now — nothing is accidental. Everything is thought through.”
And that doesn’t only include the decor.
“I want to create a flawless experience from the time you walk in here until the time you leave,” Michael B. said. That’s the name he’s gone by for years, but his last name is Beckadic.
And he has a strict idea of what constitutes flawlessness. A typical haircut involves a shampoo; an oil-infused, steamed towel (the scent changes weekly, but “I like to stay citrus”); a neck-and-shoulder massage; a straight razor outline; a neck shave; eyebrow and facial hair trimming; ear and nose hair waxing; a scalp massage; another shampoo and a conditioning rinse.
At $50 all-inclusive, it’s pricey compared to other upscale barbershops, but Wininger claims that, after one cut, you won’t go anywhere else. Other customers seem to feel the same. Michael B. has several customers drive in from West Virginia and Ohio, and one flies up from Miami.
Because House of Handsome has been open less than a month, Michael B. hasn’t yet cycled through all his regulars. Those who have stepped inside have reacted with the requisite awe, but along with the fresh digs and services, which include shoe shining and 24-karat-gold facials, come some new policies. For example, Michael B. has phased out services for those younger than 12.
But just like the space he designed, the new practices are deliberate and designed to offer what he believes is the ultimate experience for the client.
“My focus is always the person in the chair,” Michael B. said. “I can cut hair in a 250-square-foot space with white walls and make the same amount of money. This is for them.”
April Johnston is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.