Baristas Mean Business: Michael Cohen

Baristas Mean Business: Michael Cohen

At Sandows we're proud of our roots. Launched from a basement in Hackney whilst holding down our barista jobs, Sandows is a side hustle gone wild. Although our days of trading shifts for space to brew cold brew coffee are behind us, we remember them fondly. Our latest series, Baristas Mean Business looks to celebrate other people working in coffee doing something special on the side.

After five years of working in coffee, Michael Cohen is bringing hospitality to the world of barbershops. His new spot, Greyhound Barbers in Archway, North London (@greyhoundbarbers) opened earlier this month. With a beer fridge, great playlists (check them out here, here & here) and Mikey's personality at the core, this place is welcoming to the max. We sat down with him to find out what he’s learnt from life in coffee, how it feels to be your own boss, and why he believes in the power of saying hello.

Where were you when inspiration struck?

I was working at Ozone in Shoreditch and I was thinking about what I love about being a barista and if it would translate into any other careers. I like to be on my feet all day, I like to be creative, and I like to have a skill to keep improving on, so I decided to train to become a barber.

How are you making your business great? 

I ask myself how I can improve the customer experience the most, with the minimum amount of cost to me and the answer is simply saying hello! It’s amazing how many barbers you go into and no one responds to you being there. I try to make people feel welcome when they come in. I'm also trying to include small things which make it easier for people, like offering them a beer or making a board for people to write their names on so they can go away and come back later. 

What did you learn in coffee that translates to being a barber? 

When you’re working in a café, you’ve got some control over the first part of your customer’s day. If you’re friendly you’ve got no idea how much impact that might make on someone. I feel like being a barber's the same thing. There’s a ritual about getting your haircut: you have a chat, you chill out, maybe you have a beer. That’s what I want to create for my customers. Sometimes, as a barista or a barber, you can be the only person your client speaks to all day. It doesn’t take much to talk to people and for things like men's mental health, it’s really important to make the effort.

Your greatest stunt - tell us about a time you pulled something amazing off?

I think when I was doing my barber training. For six months I did evening classes two nights a week, worked full time at ozone, helped out one day a week in a barbershop and cut friends hair in my kitchen. After that still balancing coffee and cutting hair until I became a barber full time.

Biggest fuck up?

I stepped on one of my mirrors whilst painting the shop, it cracked and a corner of it fell off... I still put it on the wall though.

What are two traits that have helped you in your hustle, and one quality you'd love to develop?

I'd say I was determined but I'm happy to deviate from the original plan. I’d love to learn how to put a shelf up properly.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

One of the best things is being able to do what you want. I've got 100% renewable energy for the shop. For me, it was just an obvious decision, but it was nice to be able to do that without having to ask someone else's permission. 

What has taken the most courage so far?

Opening the doors on the first day. Before you open those doors you have not succeeded or failed (Schrödinger's Shop) I’d just been painting a shop and spending money.

Top tip for keeping the plates spinning?

Lists, write a list with sub-lists and categories. Sort the boring stuff all out first so it's only the fun stuff you have to worry about.

What has it felt like to try something new?

It’s been stressful, exciting and exhausting. But once the most stressful thing that can happen has happened you seem to ride this wave of content stress where nothing can get any worse. The fantastic part is when everything comes together and you sit back and look at what you've achieved. 

Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

Just a big thank you to everyone who helped and supported me through the whole process; to all the clients who have come by already and those who travel from my previous shop.

Greyhound Barbers is open Tuesday to Friday 11am-7pm and Saturday 9am-4pm for bookings and walk-ins. 

Find it at 143 Junction Road, London, N19 5PX                                                       For bookings call: 02072727898

Follow Mikey on Instagram @greyhoundbarbers

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