Whatever you might think is lacking from the Bay View neighborhood, it is not short on places to get your hair cut. From beauty salons catering to blue-haired ladies to old-fashioned barber shops to upscale salons -- and everything between -- the area is practically Milwaukee's salon district.
So what's one more, asked Jess Stern, the owner of the new Stag Barbershop, 3064 S. Delaware Ave. -- which sits on a block with a two more shops just feet away.
Actually, Stern didn't pick the location so much as it picked her, and even though the vibe is retro, manly and industrial, it doesn't exactly compete with places like Jose's or even its neighbor, Phoenix Hair Studio. This is an upscale type of place where only gents are welcome. A precision haircut costs $30, a straight razor shave costs $25, or you can get both for $50.
No coloring, no perms, no nonsense.
"Barbering is men's hair cutting and shaving," says Stern. "We don't do any waxing below the neck here," though she will do a little gray blending if asked.
Stag is the kind of shop Stern has been daydreaming about for her entire 10 years as a Milwaukee barber.
"It fell in my lap," says Stern, who was taken aback by the storefront that was once a barber shop and still had tons of old supplies and antiques in the basement. "I wanted it to be a place where everyone was comfortable and could talk to each other."
Stag's decor is just as important as the services that Stern and her three employees provide. It feels a little Northwoodsy with deer heads dotting the walls, but it's also cool and modern with a juxtaposition of vintage aftershaves on the shelves and antique barber shop chairs on the floor.
"It's an old-school barber shop for the modern man," says Stern.
And then there's the logo. Stern's father, Rick, who passed away in 2010, embodied the retro-cool mustachioed vibe she loved, so she hired to an illustrator to craft a logo from a favorite photo of her late dad. Her mother, Sandy, helped Stern renovate the stuff, and with her dad's portrait watching over her, it's really a family affair.
Stern brings with her plenty of old clients from her years cutting hair for others, but she's also meeting new ones, like Brewers leftfielder, Ryan Braun, who she styled for a recent magazine photo shoot.
"He was really cool, a really nice guy. The first thing he said when I walked in was, 'I really like your energy.'"
Has Braun come back as a customer, though?
Says Stern, "Not yet, but I don't think he's had his hair cut since then -- it's really long."
This weekend, Stern will also host two Gallery Night events. On Friday, she's showcasing photographer Jessica Kaminski who presents her works of rugged Americana in vintage frames, as well as Kamryn Kay's Permanent Baggage line of eco-chic jewelry and wallets. Saturday, she's bringing in barber-turned-leather craftsman Kenton Sorenson and Kaminski again. Pastiche will the cater the event, along with Grunau Wines, Rehorst Distillery and Hinterland Brewery.
In other words, this weekend would be a delicious time to see the Stag for the first time.
Between the cuts and the straight razor shave -- which trust us, is a luxurious experience -- Stern is putting the style back in hair styling. She sees Stag as a complement to the neighborhood, as opposed to competition.
She even teaches the art of shaving to stylists and barber shops around Bay View. Why? Because, she says, Milwaukee needs more places to get a great haircut and a shave.
"They're not my competition, they're my friends."
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.