March 1, 2017
Where are they now: Josh Cooley of Belmont Barbershop
In our “Where Are They Now” series, we highlight successful businesses that are part of the Small Business Revolution and interview the owners to check in on their community, learn more about running a small business and see what they are up to now.
We first profiled Josh Cooley and Belmont Barbershop in 2015, featuring the business in our mini documentary, which tells the stories of small businesses across the U.S.
Josh Cooley is proud of his local community. Cooley has run Belmont Barbershop since its inception in 2005, providing classic mens haircuts and shaves to the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. He loves being recognized as a staple in the fabric of the community and delights in watching friends run into each other inside his shop, leading him to believe that there’s more to Belmont Barbershop than just haircuts. We caught up with Cooley about his business, the changing industry landscape, and the future of barbershops.
What did it mean to you to be part of the Small Business Revolution?
It was a huge blessing. It was an amazing experience to be chosen and highlighted as a great small businesses in America. I try to explain to others that it’s like someone just calls you, and starts asking about your job, your everyday life, and as mundane and imperfect as it seems to you, that’s the story they want to tell. I had my shop and face all over the television and Internet because of SBR, so my wife and kids think I’m extra special. I’m so grateful!
What is one of the biggest challenges to owning a small business?
I used to think opening a business was the biggest hurdle, but after being open for 11 years, I’d say it’s harder to make adjustments along the way and keep it going. There are big changes in my trade, like the opening of barbershop schools, and neighborhood that force me to evolve. Trends change, neighborhoods change, and I think workers are different than they were when I opened.
What has changed most about the barbershop industry since your opening in 2005 and how has Belmont adapted to the new business landscape?
In 2005, I was radically progressive because I had a social media presence on MySpace. Now, everyone who gets a haircut these days seems to be following haircuts and barbershops online because there are so many options available to look at. There weren’t any barber schools nearby when I opened, so guys who wanted to work with me had to drive an hour and twenty minutes to go to school in Indiana. Now, there are multiple barber schools around me and they’re probably graduating over 100 students every year, adding barbers to hire or compete with in the industry. The price of a men’s haircut has just about doubled in that time period as well. Barbering wasn’t a “thing” in 2005. Barbering has become a huge industry and has experienced a real renaissance in the past few years.
How do you maintain the same passion that led up to the opening of your barber shop? What inspires you?
Honestly, I just really like people. I enjoy the friendly atmosphere of my barbershop and really enjoy serving my customers. It may seem strange, but that passion was my inspiration when I opened the barbershop and it’s still my inspiration 11 years later.
Tell us about any big business news or updates since you were last profiled by SBR.
We’ve undergone a facelift with new paint, new lighting and it looks better than ever. Outside of updates to our barbershop, there has been a lot of new competition, including three barbers who previously worked for me and opened their own shops. So, we’ve been working to stay on top of our marketing and business operations too.
What can we expect to see from Belmont Barber in the future?
I’m proud of the reputation I’ve established in the industry by consistently providing great service and haircuts. I’ve entertained some interesting ideas and am always looking at how I might improve and grow but for now, we are focused on maintaining high-quality service to our customers.