Experience Files: The Chop Shoppe

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time with my fiancee, Brent in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Experiencing new cities is always interesting, and finding small business that offer great experience is my equivilent of treasure hunting. This week, I encoutered a little experience gem we may well see more of in the future: Readers, meet "The Chop Shoppe," a funky, fun and very male grooming lounge in West Sioux Falls.

Let me preface my overview by saying that this experimentation was spawned by my ever practical cutie pie, who, like many bachelors, has his hair cut (ala electric razor) at a local discount barber for $10. The resulting coiff certainly isn't horrifying - just very often noticably uneven - especially to the discerning female.

Thus, when we passed the "The Chop Shoppe" coming back from the mall last week, I volunteered my hubby-to-be for a little experience research. He was a great sport about it, and here's what we discovered:

The Concept:

The Chop Shoppe is an unpretentiously cool destination for male grooming. Without a doubt, the owners know their clientelle: Everything there is guy friendly, from the name (it's a lounge, not a salon!), to the garage-inspired waiting area and the private "Detailing Rooms" which offer seclusion for other services such as "Sport Fascials." While it costs a bit more to get a Choppe than a razor cut from the barber, pricing isn't too much of a stretch: Chop Shoppe hair cuts are about $20, and other products are offeered for a reasonable price, as well.

The Environment:

Think "American Chopper" meets an upscale salon. The Chop Shoppe's lounge colors are red, black, grey and galvanized steel. A comfortable waiting room greets patrons, offering sleek leather seating and a very striking chrome and glass coffee table made out of mag wheels. Masculine details abound: Hang your coat on the gear-shift coatrack. Grab the paper from the tension mounted cable rack. Watch guy-friendly programming on one of several plasma screen televisions.

The Experience

While ideally clients should be able to walk-in, the salon is booked several days in advance. It's best to make an appointment. Just check-in with the front desk and one of the lounge's very attractive staff members will invite you to relax in the waiting area. They'll also offer you a cold beverage.

Just beyond the waiting area, there are a number of workstations; each one featuring a red Craftsman toolbox workstation and a full-length mahogany mirror. After clients consult with a stylist, they are escorted to the wash area for a luxurious shampoo and head massage. Hair cuts are skillfully executed and take about 15 minutes to complete.

Beyond the styling stations, several private "Detailing Rooms" offer comfort and seclusion for clients seeking other male grooming services, including face and body "detailing" such as fascials, massages and body waxing. There's nothing girly about the Chop Shoppe's very popular manicures and pedicures, either. Try the patented Margarita Pedicure. They'll soak your tootsies "on the rocks" (hot stones) in a lime bath. You'll sip a frothy virgin margarita as they lull you into paradise with a complete leg and foot massage - while scrubbing, buffing and smoothing rough areas to produce sparkling, well-groomed feet.

Aestheticians and stylitsts are not only helpful with style and service selection, they're instrumental in introducing clients to new products. The salon also offers an array of quality men's products, including shampoo, conditioners and balms, skincare and fragrance. They'll assist with product selection and offer to set up a new appointment - recommended about every four weeks.

The Business

The Chop Shoppe is the brainchild of owner, Michelle Flanagan, a veteran stylist and entrepreneur. She seems passionate about providing a comfortable, guy-friendly and inviting environment for guys who need "a little help" with personal grooming. Michelle, who can be found chatting up clients and performing services, claims that a large majority of her clients gravitate to the salon for detailing services, including waxing, manicures and pedicures. The full-service aspect of the salon makes the Chop Shoppe a best kept secret for guys who want to look their best.

Michelle's flagship store is just six months old, and doing quite well. Regular customers jamming the books. The concept and name have been painstakingly trademarked, and plans for new salons are in the works. The business concept seems quite solid: Male haircuts take less time, and men tend to require haircuts and grooming more frequently than women. The add-on value of services and product add to profitability margin. All tolled, the Chop Shoppe a fertile market for growth and expansion. The concept should be especially appealing in major metropolitan areas.

The Verdict

So, what did my gearhead guy think? He'd definitely go back. He liked his haircut (and so did I). He loved the head massage. He thought the store concept (especially the mag wheel coffee table) was fun, cool and "very guy friendly." He even bought some "welding paste" for his new "doo" (at $18). Brent said he could see himself returning regular basis, provided he wouldn't "have to wait a long time" for service. His only other criticism pertained to the "lame" car magazines offered by the lounge. He plans to provide alternative suggestions when he returns next month.

All in all, the Chop Shoppe is a great concept store with a pleasing aesthetic and a keen focus on its customer base. As with any new business, the challenge will be managing business operations, growth and expansion without undermining customer experience. We wish Michelle the best of luck and optimistically look forward to witnessing her success.


Ann Handley said...

This is a great post, Leigh, and I agree...it's a business whose time has come. Reminds me of a similar shop in Los Angeles, Major League Trim. http://www.majorleaguetrim.com/

Of course, a huge difference is that the "stylists" at the LA shop look like porn stars, which is obviously part of the...uh..."experience."

p.s. Brent is a cutie.

LivePath said...

Check out the discussion on the marketing profs web site. We certainly stirred the pot there!


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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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