Tom and Stephanie Miller started The Cutting Group in 2006. The idea behind the lower-cost alternative to full-service salons for haircuts is to do one thing, focus on it and excel at it. The idea is summarized in its tagline, "Get cut. Look good."
All haircuts, for both men and women, are $25, with members of the group's "cut club" receiving haircuts for $22.
To get into the club, all one needs to do is provide an email address, where once-per-month emails are sent with Bumble and Bumble hair product offers or invitations to parties; apparently, the Cutting Group likes to party occasionally.
All haircuts include a shampoo and finishing, which is a blow dry and any products a customer wants to try.
The Cutting Group currently has three locations, the East Side, 2216 N. Farwell Ave., Riverwest, 2963 N. Humboldt Blvd. and Whitefish Bay, 511 E. Silver Spring Dr.
The Millers opened the East Side location first, which Tom Miller says took off quickly.
"We liked the business model immediately, but a lot of the staff at the East Side location moved to Beauty. We learned how to work it all out," says Miller.
Beauty, 1633 N. Farwell Ave., is the couple's full-service salon, which opened in 1993, and is where people can get color, extensions, make-up – and where haircuts start at $36.
The Cutting Group's niche model fits in between low-end hair salons and full-service salons. Cost Cutters, for example, is programmed to give customers a 15-minute haircut regardless of an individual's hair, according to Miller.
Miller says the Cutting Group's walk-in-only policy is one of the ways they keep their price point down.
The Whitefish Bay Cutting Group location opened two years ago, followed by Riverwest, which is also a training facility.
"The Cutting Group / Beauty is very education based," says Gina Roberts, who's been a stylist with the group for about a year. "Mondays are dedicated to education; all the stylists are welcome to attend the classes, regardless of how long they've worked here."
When Roberts first graduated from cosmetology school she wanted her own clients, her own chair in a salon, but says she now appreciates how customers are basically brought in for her at the Cutting Group and she likes how her work experience is different everyday – she doesn't get bored.
"We take a kid, right out of school, and develop their cutting ability so they can be the best in the city," says Miller.
Stylists at the Cutting Group can take shifts at Beauty, developing their trade in other ways, but Miller hasn't done color himself in 15 years, turning his full attention to cutting and developing what he calls "education systems that maintain standards."
Miller focuses on "the classic styles," which he emphasizes are not old-fashioned haircuts but rather shapes that endure from generation to generation.
He teaches stylists about these fundamental shapes for both men and women, which for the latter are four: the long layer, the short, the low graduation and the high.
"By developing this strong approach, this method, it frees up stylists' creativity so they can focus on 'signaturing,' making room for the individuals' own hair cut," says Miller.
Miller adds that clients whose stylists base their haircuts on a classic shape will also see them grow out better.
"The haircut will change, but naturally, and still look good eight weeks later," he says.
The Cutting Group also offers a "smart and neat" program, in which short-haired enrollees can get a "re-shaping" for $15 within 30 days of a haircut. Blow-out service, which is a hair-dry and a round brush set or an iron set, is also available for the same cost as a haircut (it takes the same amount of time as a cut and lasts about two to three days).
Blow-outs, which are currently most popular at the Whitefish Bay location, are part of what Miller calls a bigger trend, a return to "hairdressing."
Tom Miller opened his first salon in Green Bay, but he's been in Milwaukee for about 30 years.
Very much an "East Coast guy," Miller travels there frequently for product trainings with Bumble and Bumble, and he says he likes to bring styles he sees there back to Milwaukee.
Miller has been producing training videos at the Riverwest Cutting Group on haircuts and standards. He and his wife / business partner have plans to expand to other areas in Milwaukee where they feel the Cutting Group model will succeed, which is not necessarily where people work but in the neighborhoods.
But Miller would also like to see more people get involved with the Cutting Group, possibly opening it to Cutting Group / Beauty stylists or franchising and expanding to other markets.
The guy who helped re-start Turner Hall and has big ideas for the revitalization of Downtown has no plans to take the Cutting Group out of Milwaukee himself, but Miller is interested in seeing where his business model can go.
"Anything good starts small and grows," says Miller.
Royal has taught courses in critical pedagogy, writing, rhetoric and cultural studies at several schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Royal lives in Walker’s Point with his family and uses the light of the Polish Moon to illuminate his way home.