Farnoosh Tarobi: LA’s Best Place To Catch A Buzz.


By Dustin Newcombe. Published 1/19/2013 on www.Fornoosh.TV

In 2007, Matt Berman was just another burnt out branding executive whose corporate successes brought increasingly diminishing returns. With each pay increase, Berman felt less and less fulfilled. “It was clear I was doing a better job of selling myself than performing. I did not really think I had it in me to continue to succeed in the corporate world. My back was up against a wall,” he said.

And so what do you do when you crave change? Well, for starters, you can shave your head. In 2008, Berman did just that. He left his cushy corner office behind and did what felt right: attend barber shop school, a long-time dream. By 2009,Mohawk Matt – along his new renegade barbershop – was born.

Today Bolt Barbers located on 460 S. Spring St., likes to be known for breaking all the traditional rules in the “salon” biz.   Berman insists that his downtown flagship store is LA’s first real barbershop in over 50 years and playfully dismisses competition like Rudy’s and Floyd’s as “salons that employcosmetologists.” In the Bolt Barbershop vernacular, words like salon and cosmetologist come with an implication of social stigma not unlike cooties or grossy pants.

Mohawk Matt Berman.

Bolt Barbers has a distinct speakeasy kind of feel offering a range of services – from beard trims ($10-$12) to  shoe shines ($7) to teeth whitening ($50) – all targeted exclusively and unapologetically at “dudes.”  (Dudes aged 7-70, to be precise.)

Going rogue in a saturated market amid the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression may seem like the desperate act of a desperate man.  But Berman understood that even in a bad economy, dudes need a good haircut.  And for the price of a shear ($25), Bolt Barbers offered  its clientele something even  more important:  a supportive community and a sanctuary from the harsh economic storm.

Location also played a huge role in Berman’s strategy.   The redevelopment of downtown Los Angeles and its growing community of artists and young professionals complimented his emphasis on “return on community” over “return on investment.”  “I thought it was a very opportune time, actually,” says Berman. “Low rents and the micro environment in downtown was growing despite the global economic recession.”

Bolt Barbers' logo.  See no evil.  Hear no evil.  Speak no evil.

There is an undeniable sense of rebellion that pervades the Bolt mystique.  The three monkeys logo represents the company’s mischievous set of core values:  see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.   Bolt’s “People Hate Us on Yelp” campaign along with a teasing and, at times, antagonistic rejection of anything that so much as  resemblesSteel Magnolias are just two examples of Berman’s unique anti-branding strategy.

But Berman must be doing something right.   Bolt Barbers has been a huge success…even on Yelp!  A vintage mobile barbershop called Bolt Barbers On Safari is available for events and parties, while a fourth location in Las Vegas  is currently under construction.

I guess it’s not shock that the barber who offers free beer with a shear usually wins.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, author and TV personality. The New York Times calls her advice “perfectly practical.” She is the author of You’re So Money – Live Rich Even When You’re Not, a nationally acclaimed tell-all for young adults searching for financial independence