On a typically busy day at Derby City Chop Shop (1233 Bardstown Road), 10 men sit reading magazines and waiting for haircuts. The indie band Constantines plays through speakers and drowns out any chatter. Dice, a Boston terrier, hangs around watching. Owner Adam Hedgespeth, 31, says the record for a crowd in waiting is 17. On that frigid day (minus 2 degrees, to be exact) in early January, five guys had waited outside for the shop to open. “Our customers are about as loyal as it gets,” Hedgespeth says.
When he opened the shop in August 2009, Hedgespeth had no idea that it would ever be this busy. He was still installing wood floors. The other barber, Brandon Amos, 36, who’d cut Hedgespeth’s hair at a shop in Elizabethtown previously, cut the first customer’s hair — a medium-length classic taper. They did about 10 haircuts that day. “Then fast-forward three days. Nothing,” Hedgespeth says. “We were just sitting there all day.”
He opened the shop because nothing like the classic barbershop with a punk-rock edge existed in Louisville at the time. “I think in any type of business, if you don’t do things to set yourself apart,” Hedgespeth says, “you can’t be that much more successful than anyone else. The style in the shop is basically a reflection of me — a shop that I would want to go to. Luckily, it’s been one that other people feel the same way about.”
The location had been home to a string of failed businesses, most recently a store that sold mixed-martial-arts gear, and a computer store before that. Hedgespeth, a Hogdenville native who graduated from Tri-City Barber College, was confident in his haircutting ability. He also knew he was providing an in-demand service. “Everybody gets haircuts,” he says. “The only concern was how quickly we’d get people in here. I’m sure it’s happened to countless businesses, where if they could have gotten past that initial danger zone where you don’t have enough money coming in to pay bills, they could have built a successful business.” He considered taking an extra part-time job because business was so slow for the first two months.
Then a writer from the Courier-Journal showed up in October 2009. “I didn’t know what to expect from a Courier-Journal article,” Hedgespeth says, “but I remember the morning it came out, going to the coffee shop and grabbing the paper and getting to (the Chop Shop) 20 or 30 minutes early. And cars just starting pulling up.”
October 2010, the shop had four full-time barbers. Now there are six on weekdays and seven on Saturdays. They do about 75 haircuts on an average day. Hedgespeth says he’s exploring options to accommodate more barbers, but nothing is specific yet. Despite the demand, the Chop Shop has only raised prices from $15 to $17. “We’re not trying to be one of those high-end man salons,” Hedgespeth says. Lots of customers are drawn into the shop initially because of the punk and indie record selection and vintage barbershop ads on the wall. But, Hedgespeth says, the barbers’ attention to detail keeps customers coming back and willing to wait a while. “That’s our enemy now,” he says. “Not getting people in here, but getting them out efficiently.”
Photo Courtesy Mickie Winters