Frank’s Chop Shop

So, you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to maintaining that mop? Think again! Frank’s Chop Shop in New York City takes hair care to a whole new level. It’s the ultimate destination for the fashionable modern man: hip hop hub, custom cap carrier, art gallery showcase, music video venue, publishing pro and – low and behold! – an inviting environment to get your ’do did. That’s right; Frank’s embodies the definition of multifaceted branding. Talk about a successful cross platform mission.

Format caught up with FCS man-in-the-know Todd Nisbit to obtain the inside scoop on this full service establishment and its several fascinating tentacles. Even mid-afternoon on a Sunday in autumn the popular shop sustained a steady buzz. No pun intended.

“How many places can you think of where members of Wu Tang Clan, investment bankers, pro skaters and the average guy are rubbing shoulders?”

Format: Frank’s has been around for two years now?
Todd: The barbershop has been around since October ’06. Frank’s Chop Shop is the official retail location for Frank 151 Magazine, which has been around since 1999.

Format: Can you tell me a little bit about Frank 151?
Todd: Frank Magazine is a small, quarter-page art [and] culture magazine. It has a guest curator and comes out four times a year. It’s distributed for free throughout some of the best boutiques, hotels, bars and restaurants throughout the world.

Format: Were you part of the team that decided to call this Frank’s?
Todd: No, no. The founders are Mike and Steve Malbon. They picked Frank based on Benjamin Franklin, and also the many influential Franks. There are so many. We’re going to have a t-shirt series comin’ out, which kind of showcases some of the influential Franks.

Format: So, why Benjamin Franklin?
Todd: Frank’s Chop Shop is the barbershop for the modern gentleman of leisure, and Ben Franklin was one of the original gentlemen of leisure. He was an inventor; he was someone who lived life to the fullest. He left his mark on the world and that’s what every man and woman really wants to do [in] their life. That’s where we find inspiration.

Format: Okay, then why the “151”? A tribute to Bacardi?
Todd: The founders’ apartment number in Atlanta. The [magazine] started in Atlanta and moved to New York City in early 2000.

Format: So tell me a bit more about the shop itself…
Todd: People initially were thrown off ’cause we were doin’ a barbershop on the Lower East Side. A lot of the customers are commuting from midtown, from Harlem. When you find a good barber, you [stick with] him wherever he’s at. Even though we’re a little bit out of the way, people are [keeping] their appointments. We have a mature clientele on the barbering level. We have a younger, somewhat streetwear customer that’s checking for fitted hats. [They] interact with each other in the shop. One of the main reasons for Frank 151 wanting to do a barbershop as opposed to a boutique was the fact that it would become a networking spot within the community. We’ve been able to connect a lot of people in the shop.

Format: What has been the biggest challenge over the course of the past two years?
Todd: One of the biggest challenges of any business is find[ing] the right team. I think that we [have] a team that really cares about what they’re doing. Everybody is in tune with the brand and what Frank 151 is trying to do. We’re trying to grow the brand bigger while keeping our integrity, always document[ing] some underground movements and [shedding] light [on] things that have been overlooked.

Format: Can you tell me about the barbers and their appeal?
Todd: Our head barber [is] Mr. Bee. I think it’s interesting that people hear about barbers. That’s definitely something that gets passed on. Once you create a name for yourself in barbering and you’re doing good work with people’s hair, people know about it.

Format: I read that you have some celebrity clientele?
Todd: We have a lot of hip hop celebrities. Regular clients are “Gizzer” from Wu Tang Clan, Ill Bill definitely visit[s] about once a month, The Alchemist, Prodigy has come through, Aguilar just shot a video here, Sean Price has been through many times [and] he shot a video here. Even guys from Cali; DJ Muggs has been through many times.

“Frank’s Chop Shop is the barbershop for the modern gentleman of leisure”

Format: You’ve got a very 360 establishment.
Todd: You can’t just be one-sided. It’s a mixture of everything here that keeps us going. It’s Frank 151 Magazine, it’s Frank’s Chop Shop and it’s Frank 151 New Era fitted hats. All these things work hand in hand.

Format: The New Era fitted hats, are those FDL?
Todd: The FDL is the Frank Distro League. We’ve come up with team names – New York Kings, LA Looters, Atlanta Backwoods, Carolina Shiners, [etc.]. We have about 25 different teams. It’s our underground network, which keeps us in some of the best stores, keeps us on the pulse of what’s going on. There’s three different kinds of hats: the Frank 151 “F” hats, which are very popular [and] have the large “F” on the front; the Chop Shop hat, which everyone knows from the straight razor, [tying] back to the traditional tools of barbering; and the FDL team series.

Format: Could you tell me a little bit more about the Shut Skates collaboration?
Todd: Basically Shut did a series with an artist named Steve Ellis featuring different blades; everything from a box-cutter to a switchblade. Each team member (it was a pro series) had his own custom model featuring a different form of shank. We’ve been friends with [the Shut] guys for years and figured we would add a board to that series that would feature a straight razor. So, Steve Ellis did a custom painting, which is in the shop right now. We’re still featuring his gallery show. We keep a rotating gallery in the shop. We don’t have any set schedule. We’re open to suggestions.

Format: Is the art for sale?
Todd: Yeah, for sure. Those paintings in the shop right now are for sale. We started off with a photo series, which was basically barbershop photography. And, we had work from photographers like Boogie, Ricky Powell, Estevan Oriol, Ellen Stag. We had a total of about 20-25 photographers, all barbershop photography from around the world. Some things were shot here and other things were shot at all parts of the globe.

Format: What’s on the horizon?
Todd: The Frank’s 151 editorial staff is putting together an issue, which is going to feature insight into Samoan history and how they’ve influenced the hip-hop community and culture. We just finished an issue [curated by] Dan McMillan from Zoltar. His stuff’s definitely top notch. That [issue is] in the stores right now and it’s moving fast so you better grab a copy.

AND NOW A WORD FROM HEAD BARBER MR. BEE HIMSELF:

Format: What’s your barbering background?
Mr. Bee: I [was] born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts where I started cutting [hair] around 13 years old, giving mohawks and fades to myself and other skaters. I moved to New York almost ten years ago and have always cut hair, over half my life now. This environment keeps me inspired and on my toes. I hope we can provide the public with the same.

Format: Can you elaborate on the mission of Frank’s Chop Shop?
Mr. Bee: We are committed to providing a place of comfort, leisure and, most importantly, style. The shop as a whole not only provides full service men’s hairstyles, but also a hub where ideas and information are exchanged – be it through our magazine or just general barbershop banter.

Format: What’s been your experience working at the shop?
Mr. Bee: I feel very proud and a sense of accomplishment when it comes to this shop. In the brief time we have been open we have managed to bridge the gap between our clientele. How many places can you think of where members of Wu Tang Clan, investment bankers, pro skaters and the average guy are rubbing shoulders? I think our greatest strength is that everyone is welcome here.

More Info: http://www.frankschopshop.com/

Nell Alk

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