Jonathan Jacobs' dream was to open a full-scale barbershop and spa with massage rooms, pedicure stations, perhaps a room for facials, and, of course, top-of-the line haircuts and beard trimming services complete with hot towels and — ahhh — steam.
But that was in 2010. And we were in the throes of a recession. The $2 million Jacobs needed to make that barbering brick-and-mortar dream a reality wasn't happening.
Jacobs tried to come up with ways to scale back his venture. One day, he found himself talking it over with a friend, who had a genius suggestion: Maybe you should put a barber station in a steamer trunk, making it portable.
Ethos, Jacobs' barbering biz featuring a traveling grooming station, was born. The station is a 6-foot, 4-inch-high, 42-inch wide, and 30-inch deep plywood trunk. It's permanently popped up in the lobby of the 1818 Market St. office building, where it does bustling business.
"It's a monster," said Jacobs, 42. The extent of his barbering experience is cutting hair back in the day as a side hustle, but a licensed barber he is not. "It really represents the blending of that new men's sartorial and grooming culture with the pop-up culture that everyone is excited about."
Ethos — the Greek word for image — offers haircuts, shaves, and Philly beard shape-ups for $50. The by-appointment-only services include hot towels, steam treatments, and massages as well as a complimentary drink. Think scotch and bourbon.
Before Jacobs took the entrepreneurial plunge, he worked for a Center City architectural firm; he was able to design and build the station so that it has everything a barber would need, including sinks for hot and cold water, mirrors, power outlets, a towel warmer, storage, and ample counter space for clippers, scissors, tiny combs, and Afro picks. Each station supplies two barbers. The only thing not included in the mobile set up are the swivel chairs.
It took Jacobs nearly two years and $12,000 to finish the prototype. After he was finished in 2013, it sat in his West Oak Lane garage for two years. Jacobs was burned out.
After having an inspiring business lunch in 2016 with a friend, Jacobs decided he'd give his Ethos idea another shot. He started slow, packing it in a U-Haul and setting it up as a pop-up in tony Rittenhouse Square locales like Banana Republic, ToBox, and Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, where he hired barbers to shape up dudes who happened by. In November, Jacob worked out a deal to set up his station permanently (remember, it does have wheels) in the Market Street space. He's more than tripled his investment.
Jacobs has big plans. By fall, he hopes to open a more permanent, brick-and-mortar men's grooming lounge on Callowhill Street, right off North Broad. And, he said, he's going to roll out two more Ethos mobile grooming stations by then.
"Hang out with us and we will help you establish your character." Jacobs said. "Our goal is to impact the culture of gentlemen in a positive way."