Tennyson St. barbershop lands $120K investment; looking for second location

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Manager Zach Schulman shows how customers can see the shoe inventory on the Ipad. Photo by Stephanie Mason.

A Berkeley barbershop and menswear boutique with a knack for using WiFi-connected devices has raised $120,000 to put toward a second local store.

Husband-and-wife team Taylor and Rebecca Romero started Spruce –  a shop that trims hair and sells men’s clothing – in an 800-square-foot space on Tennyson Street two years ago.

“We’ve got location two set in our sights right now,” said Taylor, adding that Spruce will consider Denver and Boulder neighborhoods with a high concentration of men ages 25 to 40 with disposable income.

The startup recently received a $120,000 investment, according to an SEC filing on June 28. Taylor said the money comes from a Minnesota Techstars accelerator program sponsored by big-box retailer Target. The Romeros have temporarily relocated to Minneapolis to attend the incubator.

Venture capital firm Matchstick Ventures has also committed an additional $50,000 investment in each company participating in this summer’s accelerator, Taylor said.

Spruce haircut

Gabriel Cordova sits for a haircut at Spruce’s current outlet.

The Spruce store is stocked with sunglasses and hats, hair and grooming products and a variety of clothing and footwear. Barbershop prices start at $20 for a half-hour shave and go up to $65 for a 75-minute shave and haircut. The shop has eight employees, four full-time and four part-time.

Spruce is also thick with tech-savvy touches.

Even before a customer strolls in, a widget logs that he’s passing the front door. Another pings employees that his appointment is on deck. And a third lets him play an arcade game while he waits.

“People say, ‘How do you guys always know who I am?'” said Taylor. “I say walking into the shop is like logging in.”

Spruce customers can browse footwear and order a pair to try on without speaking to a clerk. A wall menu counts down the wait time to the next shave. The shop’s street-facing sign flashes each time a customer books an appointment.

spruce ipad

Manager Zach Schulman shows the iPad in the dressing room that simulates different lighting situations – this is the club theme. Photo by Stephanie Mason.

Spruce sprouted after Rebecca left a digital marketing job and Taylor, a software developer, left a full-time gig at a local tech startup.

Rebecca had been taking night classes in fashion retail management. As an experiment, she and Taylor offered to give a male friend a style makeover, only to discover that between outfitting him with clothes, accessories and a new haircut, the transformation took four days.

“That’s when we realized, it’s got to have everything, it has to be in one spot,” said Taylor.

So Spruce became both a barbershop and a clothing store. Taylor is particularly proud of the store’s style consultations. Booking an appointment is free, he said, but many customers leave with a full outfit in their shopping bags.

Last year, the shop pulled in $210,000 in revenue, Taylor said. And with the Techstars investment, Taylor has left the software development side gigs that have helped pay the bills for the last two years.

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