Nikki Schneider sat at a table in the middle of her new Wauwatosa barbershop, The Nobleman, and drank coffee from a large mason jar as she told the story of becoming a business owner for the first time.
Dressed in fashionable dark clothing, with her blonde hair twisted into a sophisticated up-do, Schneider said she'd ogled the corner piece of real estate at 6831 W. North Ave., where her barbershop now sits, for some time. The building previously housed North Star Music, which closed in May 2015 after three decades of business in East Tosa.
Before the previous owner, Joe Moser, sold the property to Joey Carioti, of Cranky Al's, Schneider's husband, Peter, dropped off a letter at the music store, expressing interest in the site and a desire to bring neighborhood barbering to the area. The couple lives about six blocks away.
Apparently, the letter must have made its way to Carioti, because Schneider was offered the spot in late January. Schneider said she owes much of the entrepreneurial undertaking to her husband, who initiated the new adventure.
Bringing barbering back
When Nikki Schneider first entered the industry about 13 years ago, she said men were "hard-pressed" to find a barber. The number of classic, neighborhood barbershops had dwindled, so Schneider made it her mission to learn everything she could about the craft.
"To me, it's an art," Schneider said of barbering. "I didn't want the art of shaving to go away."
The Nobleman's services include haircuts, shampoos with hot towels, facials, shaves, facial waxing and beard trims, among other things. The business is open to women who may seek out a barber's skill set, but Schneider emphasized the shop specializes in services geared for men.
About the shop
Stepping into The Nobleman, customers will first notice a hand-painted logo on the front step, also found on the business' expansive windows. The hardwood floors inside are original, but otherwise the shop's renovation was "a full tear down," Schneider said.
Beyond the front desk, there are several old-school-style barber chairs lit by vintage fixtures. The chairs face outward, to the rest of the room, to incorporate a friendly feel. The business boasts a rustic and cozy yet urban feel.
Near the back of the business is a maroon-painted wall with the word "Nobleman" painted on it and the following phrase: "A thought starter. Game changer. Leader of the pack. A Midwestern kind of Americana. That sweet mix of rebel meets rugged, like a leather jacket. That inexplicable Fourth of July feeling. Refreshingly refined. Yet off-the-cuff wild."
Beneath the phrase is a small coffee and whiskey bar.
Schneider said she tossed around a number of names for the shop before settling on The Nobleman. "Blather" was another idea, one Schneider said she's glad she dropped.
"We came up with some really horrible names," she said, laughing.
Her favorite part of the shop is a secret door near the center of the space, against the wall. Schneider incorporated it into design plans. although what will go inside the small room is still to be determined.
So far, the community has been extremely supportive, she said. Schneider took her business to the street during the East Tosa Gran Prix in June. She moved a chair to the sidewalk and offered her services to the public as bikers sped by. The event gave her shop great exposure, she said.
Schneider, who travels to teach others the craft of barbering, said continuous education among her own staff will be prioritized moving forward. She aims to be fully staffed by the end of October.
The Nobleman is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Customers can stop in between 1 and 3 p.m. for a $25 happy hour haircut. The shop is closed Sundays and Mondays.