The best place to start an experience at 18/8, a new men’s salon in Aksarben Village, is, perhaps, with the name itself, a reference to stainless steel—steel plus 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel.
“When it was transformed, stainless steel was better—it performed better, it looked better, it worked better,” says Omaha 18/8 owner Michael Wohlgemuth.
“That’s kind of the metaphor we use for 18/8. We want to transform the male to be better—to look better, to be better performing, to get better results in how they feel about themselves.”
It’s a metaphor for 18/8 itself, too, which, since its opening in May, is striving to transform the Omaha man’s professional grooming experience.
“We try to cater to men in a semi-private atmosphere where they get the opportunity to relax and enjoy the experience,” Wohlgemuth says. “Most barber shops and salons line up chairs or cubicles. We turn ours at angles and have walls between stations. In our salon, the highest number of people getting services at one time would be three, and they would be protected—they don’t have 10 or 12 other men staring at them.”
It’s a formula that’s proved popular in other locations. More than 20 18/8 salons have opened or are slated to open in California, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, and Texas.
Scott Griffith and Ron Love started the franchise in California. Wohlgemuth and his wife, Debbie, decided to bring 18/8 to Omaha (likely soon in more than one location beyond the existing one at 1920 S. 67th St.) because they felt the salon’s approach was a new one for the city.
Men can book services—including haircuts, hair and beard coloring, shaves, facials, manicures, scalp treatments, and waxing—online or via phone. They can walk into the salon, too, though clients with reservations receive priority. In any case, every visitor is greeted first by a DOFI—a Director of First Impressions—who confirms services to be received and leads guests to the first semi-private area of the bright, modern salon: a couple of sleek arm chairs flanked by a mini fridge and mounted flat-screen TV. The DOFI makes a note of clients’ preferred beverages for future visits, Debbie Wohlgemuth says, then escorts men to the back, where they can remove and hang their shirts and put on a robe. A stylist or barber will put on an additional cape when clients get to a chair.
“We don’t want hair anywhere on a man when he leaves,” Michael Wohlgemuth adds. “When he leaves, he can go right out on a date or to a wedding or back to work without having to worry about going home first.”
The salon’s team of stylists and barbers (barbers are able to provide a clean shave with a straight blade) are trained to tailor hairstyles to men’s individual heads, Michael Wohlgemuth says. They won’t simply snap on a guard and cut the hair around it, for example. Every client gets a hot towel upon arrival and a shampoo and conditioning before and after hair services.
“We think the experience is kind of a lost art, and we’re trying to revitalize it,” Michael Wohlgemuth says. “We think we’ve just taken the experience up a notch.”