North Texas Daily

Portable groomers go against the grain

Portable groomers go against the grain

Portable groomers go against the grain
October 01
12:41 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer


Clint Wilkinson, the owner of Bell and Oak Leather Goods within Weldon’s Saddle Shop on East Hickory Street, ran his hand through his neatly-sculpted beard as he recalled his search for a more traditional barber experience.

He recently took to Facebook to voice his desire for a local barbershop intent on not taking advantage of customers. One that took care to shave with straight-razors, paid highly specific detail to the customer’s desired hairstyle and spent as much time as needed to ensure a concrete experience.

“Our family is six generations deep in Denton,” Wilkinson said. “Living here and working at the shop my entire life, I’ve had a hard time finding places to get my hair cut and beard trimmed without feeling like all I was good for was my money.”

His long-time friend Zach Johnston commented on his status in reply, and told him to check out his Traveling Groom Parlor and Beard Emporium.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Wilkinson said. “They got my slicked-back hairstyle just the way I wanted it, properly groomed my beard, and everything was absolutely perfect.”

Built out of an old Matco Tools truck purchased off Craigslist, the Traveling Groom Parlor and Beard Emporium is parked next to the outside porch area of East Side Bar on Oak Street, and anybody is welcome to pay a visit without appointment from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Johnston originally worked as a part-time employee with Foundry BMX and Board Shop, a business that was formerly established on Fry Street in the 80s, and would become a mechanic for several different motor shops around Denton County, becoming proficient with maintaining and modifying motor vehicles.

He would make his way into the hairstyling business years later with his wife, Jennifer Johnston, a former cosmetologist with Supercuts on Avenue C for over 10 years.

“There was a pretty wild party on Fry back in the day, where I met my wife,” Johnston said. “Over the years, we realized working as an hourly, part-time employee is a complete rip-off and that we wanted to do something special.”

After Jennifer decided she was burnt out from her days as a part-time staff member, the two began trimming hair on their own from their guest house out in Bolivar. The couple would eventually make an effort to extend their home business out of the rural side of Denton County and into the heart of Denton downtown by securing a barber’s chair in the bed of Zach’s truck.

They eventually found the old Matco truck he uses now, and Zach would spend four months renovating it into their shared vision of a full-fledged barbershop on wheels.

Although the shop has been open for only two months, the Emporium has seen no shortage of customers. Originally implementing an appointment-booking system, the congested agenda and demand became too overwhelming.

Customers can now visit on a whim, provide their phone number and receive a text from the shop when it’s time for their session. Staff barber Gary Barnhart prefers the system to the standard booking system used by cosmetology chains.

“It’s all friendly and casual,” Barnhart said. “We’re not a corporation, but a place for you to experience what visiting a barber is really like.”

The Emporium features products found from around the globe and several from Reuzel Pomade, a classic barber shop based out of Rotterdam, Holland. It also serves as a guiding paradigm for its own acclaimed business.

“Along with Reuzel, you can find anything over Instagram,” Barnhart said. “With the wide variety of beard oils, brushes and combs you see in our shop, we really want to maintain the traditional vibe.”

The Johnstons hope the traveling groom parlor will provide an easily accessible, traditional experience of personal grooming. Customers have the opportunity to light up a cigar perched upon the classic barber chair on the hardwood floor while sipping on a glass of whiskey.

The Emporium also implements a trading-and-bartering system if customers wish to compensate for services beyond monetary means. Customers can proposition hand-made products, offer services or anything of apparent value.

“The Bearded Lady loves to dabble in the practice of trade,” Johnston said, referring to his wife with an affectionate nickname. “Right now we’re really looking for a female goat. If you know of anybody who has a female goat, we’ll do way more than just cut your hair.”

The Johnstons have seen their passion for traditional hair grooming compile itself in what they call a “snowball” of success, and they eventually hope to expand, with traveling emporiums in regions of California, Colorado and all over the nation.

“The past two months of being in business have only exceeded our expectations,” Johnston said. “Even though we’ve gotten a few too many people thinking we’re a food truck asking for waffles, and [had] to tell them we’d trim their beard instead.”

Featured Image: Zack Johnston and Gary Barnhart pose behind their antique barber chair in the shop on wheels. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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