Longtime friends discovered a vintage space in Detroit's Reid Building and groomed it with a most creative makeover
New Life: Natural light pours through the original windows and onto the Standard Barber Co.'s flatiron floor plan. The shop emphasizes a simple design aesthetic with cool vintage finds and bright pops of color.
Photographs by Hayden Stinebaugh
While incomparable in size to New York City’s Flat-iron Building, it can be argued that the Reid Building in downtown Detroit, overlooking Cadillac Square, has just as much charm — especially now that Standard Barber Co., a 1950s-inspired barbershop, has settled into the second floor. To find the entry to this mid century-style beauty, just look for the freshly painted fire-engine-red doors.
Proprietors Stephen Economy and Matthew Temkin, whose dream was to open a barbershop in downtown Detroit, almost gave up their search after looking at dozens of places that didn’t have the character they wanted. After yet another unsuccessful expedition, the two longtime friends decided to regroup over a beer at Greenwich Time Pub, located on the first floor of the Reid Building. That led to a conversation with the bartender, who knew the landlord. The bartender told them the second floor was available.
“He (the landlord) came up with a ring of keys and showed us the space, and at that point in time it was pretty rough,” Temkin says. “There was nasty tile, and it was covered in filth. We really questioned if it could work or not.”
But it did work. And after completing most of the construction themselves — along with their assistant and friend, Kyle Driskell — Standard Barber Co. opened its doors in February of 2014.
The barbershop was an instant hit; almost immediately, it was busier than the business partners had anticipated, Temkin recalls. To keep up with demand, Temkin and Economy joined forces with with Architectural Salvage Warehouse Detroit (ASWD) Executive Director Chris Rutherford to renovate and double the original space to 900 square feet in a limited three-week timeframe.
“We work with lots of local businesses, but to see that we can do this full scope of design, build, and construction fabrication is really exciting for us,” Rutherford says. Oak flooring from a deconstructed 100-year-old Corktown home was brought in to match the existing floors, Temkin says. To address the main issue of adding more barber stations, Driskell came up with a design and Rutherford matched his vision by finding salvaged materials that would work in the space. The marble tabletops came from Newberry Hall, a historic nursing school in Detroit that was built in 1898, Rutherford explains. “The marble came from the restroom stall dividers — and they were just beautiful antique marble.”
Inside the ASWD, all the materials are organized by the street address they originally came from; Rutherford can tell you the street address of almost every 2x4 and 2x8 piece of wood used to make the barber stations. “The wood from 31st street in southwest Detroit would’ve been from around 1915, when that house was built,” Rutherford says. There’s also wood from a Hamtramck house that was built in 1935, he adds. The highlight of a small area where clients are shampooed features a unique wooden ceiling. “The washroom wood came from a house we had in Ann Arbor that we deconstructed — 500 Spring Street — and that house was built in 1868,” Rutherford says. “It was an old farmhouse with pine flooring; we sanded it lightly (so we wouldn’t) lose the character, and (then we) refreshed the finish.”
Barbershop Quintet: From left to right, Co-Owner Matt Temkin, barber David Herrera, assitant Kyle Driskell, barber Joe Walker, and, in chair, co-owner Steve Economy take a break from their grooming and entrepreneurial duties.
Now complete, the barbershop welcomes patrons with natural light that pours through the 11-foot-tall original windows, brightening the grey-navy blue walls. A record player spins old jazz albums, and an original 1998 Apple poster that hangs on the wall pictures Miles Davis next to the phrase, “Think Different.” Ten round, 1950s light fixtures Economy found while hunting around the antique mall in Cass Corridor deliver a bold statement and generate additional light. The bright yellow chairs were a Craigslist find; they were sold by a woman who may or may not have been running an illegal bar out of her backyard, Temkin jokes. The vintage fridge and all the barber chairs were Craigslist finds, too.
“All the barber chairs are really old. We got some of them from a woman’s shop that was going out of business in northwest Detroit. Allegedly, they were used by the Purple Gang,” Temkin says. Ed Rusche’s painting, “Standard Station,” inspired the shop’s name and its classic logo, which has been hand-painted on the wall above a bicycle made by Detroit Bikes. There’s also a neon light, featuring the company’s name, shining in the bay window.
“When we were taking apart the wall, we found (something interesting that) must have belonged to someone who rented the space in the 1940s — a Democratic National Convention Roosevelt Crusaders membership card. We’re going to get it framed,” ASWD’s Rutherford says.
Editor’s note: For more information on ASWD and their work with table company Eclecticasa, see this issue’s Décor Showcase feature.
Elements of Style
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