Francisco Jimenez opened The Barber in 2017, bringing to life his vision for the perfect barbershop. Gleaned from his years of working in the hair industry, Francisco has injected his professional standards and friendly personality into DNA of his shop. We sat down to discuss his unique neighborhood barbershop, a place where the classic barbershop experience finds a contemporary and friendly twist.
Are you from here, if not where are you from?
I was born in Mexico, a little town called Coahuila. I was born there and came here to Sarasota in 1990.
What were you interested in growing up?
Definitely sports, I was into sports a lot. I played organized soccer and baseball. As a kid it’s good to get into sports and stay out of trouble. At the time where we lived, there were little gangs here and there. You’d have a choice of who to hang out with and if you chose wrongly you’d could end up in a bad crowd. Sports were what always kept me out of trouble.
Any art in your background?
I always had a passion for some kind of art, like playing music or other things. I was always drawing into my teen years. So I guess thats kind of why barbering interested me, the art of barbering and doing art on people.
At what age did you first get started in barbering?
I saw a friend cutting someone’s hair on his porch one day and thought it was cool. I stayed to watch for a little bit. Once I got home, I started reading about haircuts and thats where it started. I started around 16, picked up my first pair of clippers at the local Walmart and started doing myself, my brothers and my friends.
Did you do anything else professionally before you took barbering seriously?
My brother has his own concrete company, I worked with him for 8 years. It’s funny because even though it’s hard work, there’s an art to working with materials like concrete. Construction in Florida is always hard though, because of the sun. But, I did learn from that experience and kind of applied it to my barbering.
What about your entrepreneurial ambition, what influenced that?
I guess just being around people who had their own businesses. I had a couple of buddies who opened their own barbershops. Just through the relationships, I learned how they did it and why.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Bradenton Barber and Beauty academy on West Manatee Ave, now called Guti.
After you graduated, what were your first experiences in the industry?
I started working at a small shop in Bradenton. The owner gave me a shot, she taught me a lot that I hadn’t learned in school. I took a chance and I stayed there for two and a half years. After that I came to Sarasota, to the Southside Village Barbershop. I was there for six and a half years and managed that one.
How long have you been in this spot?
I opened this shop January 3rd. I started pretty fast, because a lot of my previous clients followed me. My wife and I were skeptical. We both were concerned about me making money and paying our bills. But the first day I came here, there were already people outside waiting for me to open. It started strong and it hasn’t stopped since then, I’ve been busy.
Tell me about the demographics of your clientele.
The demographics really range. 3 month old babies to a 103 year old man. I had a 103 year old client walk in with his 65 year old daughter asking for a shave. He was a funny guy who told me about his life and family.
How many chairs did you open up with?
So I started with three, because I knew it was a new barbershop and the area is on the come up. I keep a fourth station, waiting to be filled at the right time. I actually just interviewed another barber wanting to come in. The Rosemary District is growing and there’s so much construction going on. As the neighborhood grows, so will the shop.
Why did you choose this spot for your shop?
I really never thought about it to tell you the truth. I knew about the homeless. This property just came out of no where. I looked around for months and couldn’t find anything. One day I looked through my phone, right about the same time I had given up looking. I decided to look one more time and as soon as I opened my phone, this spot came up. It was like a blessing. I showed my wife, we called the landlord and he told us to come check it out. It used to be a tattoo shop, which was still open the last time I’d been by. They had a little over a week left in their lease. The promised nothing was wrong with the building, they were just moving somewhere else. So after visiting the space that was it. Three or four other people were looking at it the same time that I was. But when I told the landlord my ideas and what I wanted to do with the shop, he told me “it’s yours”.
How did it look when you first got into this shop?
It was all one color. It was bland to me and looked dry. You came in and there was nothing exciting about the place. Not to say anything about the tattoo shop before me, but if you looked in the window there was nothing to attract you to come in here. I had to change that. I also built a lot of the stuff in here on my own. My brother helped with the construction. We did the panel walls and my buddy did the paintings and for me to hang up in the shop.
Where do you get your aesthetic inspiration from?
A lot of stuff I had in my head already, I just never said anything about it. I just started moving stuff around thinking maybe this goes here, maybe this should be there. I wanted something that’s for the guys and I didn’t want it to look too stuffy. When it’s stuffy that can make some people feel uncomfortable. Where I used to work, its really nice with a very classy air. Even new barbers who started there felt intimidated going in to work, because it looked so upscale. It got that feeling too, when I started there. I wanted something different and I didn’t know if my design decisions were going to work or not, but I just wanted to go for the vision.
Are you satisfied with what you’ve done with the shop thus far?
I’m still not done with the shop. We’re still doing stuff, designing as we go. I like to take my time with things. Just yesterday I put up those vintage razors from different decades because I love doing hot towel shaves, it’s such an art.
As far as hair cutting and technique, who inspires you?
Though I went to school and learned from great barber instructors, I’ve learned a lot since, on my own. At school I was taught the basics and went through important formal training. You have to think outside the box though. You need to keep trying things, because you never know what people will like. When I first started I put ideas out there, ones that I thought were good. Clients and colleagues really liked the results. Even techniques like fading, I learned on my own. I learn a lot online.
How do you describe your service philosophy?
Being professional is everything. A lot of shops lack in formality in some things. Here the way we dress, the way we talk, the way we greet the clients, I take it very serious. First impressions are everything. Giving a nice first impression, is one of the main things I focus on. I try to make clients feel comfortable and make them feel like they’re at home. We’re mindful of our conversations here, because we know a lot of kids come in. We try to set a good example for them. I know people who open shops and some crazy stuff happens in them. Seeing both ends of the professional spectrum in this industry, I always want to give them some advice. I’ve felt uncomfortable in some barbershops before. When I started working in Sarasota years ago, I noticed a difference and thought this is the way its supposed to be. This is a real barbershop. So I know both ends and I want to stay on the better side.
With all this development, 6,000 new people are supposed to be here soon. What is that going to do for you?
When I came here to look around with my wife, before I even walked into the shop, I told her, this is where I want to be. I see a future here. There are so many people coming into this area. This is going to be the next up coming neighborhood. Even though it’s going to take some time and patience, this is where I want to be. I’m willing to go through the growth process, in order to have something great come out in the end. Thats why I want to hire the right barbers. I want them to come in and give people the right first impression.
Where do you want to take your business?
I definitely want to own more. This is just the beginning. There are more possibilities here. Maybe not in Sarasota, but definitely north of here, or south of here. I definitely want to open up one or two more shops. With the right people by my side theres no stopping.