Take a stroll to the end of Cork’s lively North Main Street and a shiny new corner shopfront will catch your eye.
Artfully designed to look like it’s been there forever, Tom Winters Barbers is an atmospheric little haven for men who require a little more than a short back and sides – and they’ve been scrambling for appointments since it opened just before Christmas.
Inside, a salvaged parquet floor and exposed brick set the scene and there’s a complimentary craft beer with every unrushed service, but it’s owner Stephen (Winters – the shop is named after his Dad) who is the main draw.
A Jack of all trades, this self-taught, moustachioed gent honed his craft during military tours of Afghanistan and Somalia.
It’s no wonder his is the only scissors many customers will entrust their beards to.
In his own words, this is how he’s WORKING IT…
I am a traditional barber. It was my passion for the craft of barbering, the classic cuts and traditional shaves, that pushed me. I took the risk and opened Tom Winters Barbers.
When I was 13, my mother bought me clippers so I could cut my own hair – that’s where is all started for me. I left school at 15, got handed a brush and shovel and was told to go to work.
At 18 I had saved enough to travel so I went to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Later I travelled Europe before joining the military, where I spent 10 years serving and operating all over the world including in Afghanistan, Somalia and Malaysia. Throughout those years I kept barbering and learning and when I left the military I turned what was my hobby and passion into my career.
Confidence was something I never lacked and that has been both a good and a bad thing – the military training most certainly helped! Meeting and finding mentors who have dedicated their lives to the industry kept me true to myself in what I wanted to bring to the men of Cork.
I’ve learned that nothing comes easy especially when it’s you putting your heart and soul into a business. I make mistakes every day but I always try to learn from them so I don’t make the same ones in the future. One of the best lessons I’ve had so far is to take things slowly, don’t rush into anything.
The best piece of career advice I’ve ever been given was from my dad. He said ‘keep the circle small and trust your gut.’
Two things I love doing during the working week? Shaving a classic cut and buffing the shop floors.
The element of my business I’m most proud of so far is the relationship I’ve created with my customers. Watching them walking back in the door a few weeks later is a real joy.
My advice to another would-be entrepreneur is always ‘trust your gut and take the risk!’
I don’t do Facebook. I don’t really have a big social media following but I just try to represent myself and the shop as true as I can.
I like to stay organised. I write everything down and plan every night for the next day.
I wear a suit and tie every day so I have a lot of vintage clothing and tailored suits. Mostly Magee, Eton shirts, Harris tweeds, Dune and Barker shoes.
Cork is unique. I think it’ll keep growing as it has been over the last five years, which is great. I’m going to keep doing what I can and grow with it.
I haven’t been networking with others in my industry for a while – I’ve been somewhat out of touch with the Cork scene as I’ve been away for 15 years – but I hope we can get together and work and learn and maybe even do a barber convention in the City.
I have many big plans this year with collaborations with different companies. I’ll also be looking to fill the two empty chairs in the shop, which I’m very excited about.
Images: Tim Bingham, Publiclens.ie Street Photography