Sports-themed barbershop hits home run

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 at 1:00am

Men who long for the old days of a no-frills haircut at a neighborhood barbershop are finding a new home at Sport Clips in Nashville.

"We're like a glorified barbershop because we don't do any styling, we don't do any coloring, anything like that," said Anna Hill, co-owner of the shop at 5761 Nolensville Road.

Sport Clips may not have the old-fashioned appeal of a barbershop with the swirling pole. But that wouldn't exactly quit fit in with the character of the Hickory Plaza strip mall, next to Kroger, at the corner of Nolensville and Old Hickory Boulevard.

Instead, Sport Clips, part of a chain based in Georgetown, Texas, capitalizes on Tennessee's love affair with sports to turn a dollar.

From the moment you enter the 1,200-square-foot building, the jock theme hits in all directions, starting with the ESPN broadcasts that blare from the 50-inch big-screen TV in the lobby and spread to the smaller TVs positioned between each cutting station.

The stations sport lockers instead of cabinets. Shampoos are given in "the showers" in the back. The reception area is fashioned like a ticket booth. And the artwork consists of sports banners and team flags hanging from the ceiling.

A key part the business is the marketing of an "all-star" treatment. The standard haircut is $12.95. For $5 extra, the customer gets pampered. The stylist drapes a warm towel across the customer's face to open the pores and massages his face muscles. Then the client is taken to the chair for a neck massage before the hair is clipped away.

"I think it's a good idea. It gives people a chance to relax when they're getting their hair cut," said Jeremy Kammerer, from Nashville, whose hair was cut as he watched a sports event on TV.

Sport Clips, which bills itself as the leading hair-cutting franchise chain catering exclusively to males, was founded by Gordon Logan in Austin in 1993.

Since franchising began in 1995, the chain has grown to 212 stores, with about 20 more slated to open by the end of the year.

Sport Clips entered the Nashville-area market in October of last year with the opening of a Sport Clips in Franklin, followed by another store in Cool Springs and the Nolensville Road shop on Jan. 16.

Hill, who also designs window treatments, bought the franchise with her husband Elmer, a business consultant. Their son Scott joined them in the venture and handles the marketing. The couple had no prior experience in the $40 billion-a-year hair industry.

"We have four children, three boys and a girl, and they've all been participating in sports at the high school and college level," Hill said. "And we just love that type of atmosphere and working with people."

Sport Clips charges an initial franchise fee of $45,000 for the minimum of three franchises and estimates the initial opening investment to be around $160,000.

After nearly a year in business, Sport Clips' six stylists on Nolensville serve an average of 370 customers a week, mostly men and boys, Hill said.

She said the family plans to open a second location in Murfreesboro in February. Meanwhile, Sport Clips corporate officials note plans to open 10 to 12 more stores in Tennessee next year.

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