OSWEGO — When it comes to their business, the Good Guys Barber shop is letting it grow out.
The shop founded in 2014 in downtown Oswego has grown and changed locations to make room for their expanding business. After more than a year of planning, building and training, co-owners Harrison Noel and Keith Raymond are taking the next step. The duo is opening a new shop in Fulton July 1.
“We had the idea for a while,” Noel said. “We draw from (Fulton) really well. We knew we wanted to expand to the south a little bit, and we looked at Fulton as another community on the verge of growth.”
The business, with its sharp black-on-white dress code and throwback wall décor, has come a long way from its humble beginnings.
Good Guys began in the rear of Canal Commons with only four chairs, but knocked down an adjacent wall and doubled their capacity after a few years building their clientele. In 2019, the Good Guys took their operation to the next level. Moving from the back of Canal Commons to the front, the barbershop now occupies a massive floorspace looking out onto West First Street.
“We made smart decisions at a time when the industry was rapidly growing,” Noel said. “There was an increase in the desire for traditional barber shops. There aren’t and wasn’t many around here, so I think a lot of guys were looking for it. That’s what contributed to our rapid growth.”
Noel and Raymond said there are currently 11 full-time barbers in Oswego and six ready to staff the seven-chair facility at 501 S. 2nd St., Fulton. While more apprentices have been hired, Noel and Raymond like that there’s room to grow in both locations.
“We accidentally filled a void we didn’t even know was there until we were doing it,” Raymond said. “It’s kind of snowballed into this huge thing. It’s become a household name, and the community support is always overwhelming.”
Noel has been cutting hair since he was a child for various family members, and after finishing college decided to go to barber school. He was cutting hair at another shop when he convinced Raymond to take up the craft.
“I was getting a haircut from Harrison and I told him about how my dead-end job wasn’t panning out and he asked me if I wanted to barber,” Raymond said. “I just said ‘That sounds great.’”
Noel and Raymond have taken the same approach with their apprentices, preferring to work with new barbers with little to no experience. It’s a year or more investment, and green barbers need to possess the right attitude, but the two believe it’s well worth it.
“We know we can make them a good barber by teaching them,” Noel said. “The process has been teaching everyone from the ground up. That doesn’t happen overnight.”
The new expansion certainly hasn’t come without challenges.
When the coronavirus pandemic halted all non-essential businesses in March, new apprentices couldn’t cut hair, building materials were expensive and hard to find and suddenly there was overhead for two brick-and-mortar locations generating lots of expenses, but no income.
While the Oswego shop is on a lease, Raymond bought the building in Fulton for Good Guys.
“In January, no doubts. In April? Definitely it felt like the end of the world, but I trust the brand and believe in our product,” Raymond said. “The overwhelming support of the community makes it obvious that it’s a no-brainer to continue expanding until people don’t like us anymore.”
Despite the unexpected challenges, the delay to open the Fulton shop was relatively short.
“It pushed us back — surprisingly — only one month,” Noel said. “That’s due to our hustle this last month to get everything buttoned up and ready to open. I feel like we’re in a really good spot right now, and I’d feel fine with opening tomorrow, but July 1 is the date.”
Fulton Mayor Deana Michaels said it was “refreshing” to hear the Good Guys felt her city was ready to support their endeavor.
“This is progress, this is moving forward,” Michaels told the Pall-Times. “People are looking at Fulton and saying, ‘we want to be part of the change.’”
Raymond and Noel have already put thought into more expansion in the coming years. The next logical steps would be closer to Syracuse, they said, but it would still take three to five years to scout a new location, train barbers and put together a shop.
“In business, you always have to look toward the future. That’s a good way of not getting left behind,” Noel said. “The industry has blown up so quickly and so much over the course of the last five years that you have to move quick. We do have some plans in the future to further expand. Right now they’re in the very early stages, and Fulton was the first thing we needed to do before we tackle any of that.”