Mohawk Matt owns Bolt Barbers, one of the most authentic and popular barber shops in Los Angeles. A throwback to the days when a local barber would give customers a good conversation along with a tight haircut and shave, Bolt Barbers has earned a loyal customer base at its locations in downtown LA and West Hollywood. Prices vary depending on the cut but personal therapy, legal advice, counseling and consulting from a Bolt Barber is always included. We sat in Mohawk Matt’s chair to find out what’s new with his shops.
How long have you lived and worked in Los Angeles?
I moved to LA in January 2008. Having a consumer product and marketing background, I had invested in a failed startup that made fresh, organic baby food.
At what point did you decide to stay in LA and pursue a new career?
The idea of moving to Los Angeles was repulsive. I came to spite the fact it was LA. I was living in Lisbon, Portugal before I moved here. I thought that I was going to be dealing with materialistic wannabes but, surprise surprise! I was wrong.
It actually turned out to be a great business opportunity. LA is my favorite place that I’ve ever lived in and I will never live anywhere else in the world full-time. LA is about the most culturally diverse place that I’ve lived in. It doesn’t have a Manhattan.
If there is one thing you can change about the city, what would it be?
The homeless problem is staring us so heavy handily in the face. We’ve become a bus depot to drop the homeless off here in LA. As a society, we’ve done something wrong in America by not creating the social platform that underpins society.
We can start by looking as a society at alienable rights to healthcare or job benefits. Here at Bolt Barbers, we have a charity with the Midnight Mission. We help in whatever way that we can. We show them the respect that they deserve and we donate time and equipment. We recently paid to have their equipment sharpened and serviced. We rolled up our sleeves and did a little bit. When you do things that touch people, it’s contagious. We need to nurture and multiply helpful deeds.
Where do you go for a night on the town?
My favorite bar is Vivian’s Tavern. I love that place and the authenticity of it. It’s a real tavern that avoids the club-y scene. It’s distinctive and fresh. Bar 107 is a great place for locals. Pacific Dining Car has an 83 year-old bartender that makes a wonderful bourbon on the rocks.
What is LA’s best kept secret?
The diversity of making it such a great place to live, work and play. The perception of LA, is not the reality of it. It’s surprising. I’m more part of a community in LA, than I’ve been before. It’s nothing short of amazing. Now, it’s a thriving community. LA has become the envy.
Who is the most interesting person you know in Los Angeles?
Bastian Hal, nobody can be more credited for the transformation of downtown Los Angeles. Hal is very much the man behind the curtain.
Do you plan to open any other locations?
Yes, I am currently working on opening a location a downtown Las Vegas location in July 2013.
What makes Bolt Barbers stand out from all of the other barbershops?
I think we do a thousand things differently. I call it, lagniappe, it’s a New Orleans term that means “something extra.” We build an experience for each customer. Not to mention, we serve the best root beer on tap in America.
I created Bolt to be a third place for guys to hang out and be themselves away from the defined roles they play at home or school. You can be broke, a laid off hostess or an Oscar- winning celebrity, and you will get treated the same way at Bolt Barbers. I think it’s rare to come to a place where we don’t care what you do, how much money you make, we still love you.
I created an experience as opposed to a transaction. Bolt is also the only barber shop west of the Mississippi that’s open until 2am. We have a reverse happy hour from Thurs-Sun at my West Hollywood location (Bolt Barber Monkey House). The downtown LA location is open until midnight from Tues-Sat.
Are there any Bolt products that customers can take home?
I don’t want to lose the authenticity of the brand. We are working hard supporting small entrepreneurs and their product. We sell Duffy’s Beer Shampoo, it’s a rich, beer infused dude shampoo and conditioner. We also sell Bay Rum and shaving cream.
As Bolt continues to grow, how will you keep customers coming back?
Keep it authentic, that’s what makes us Bolt Barbers. They want that authenticity. I have launched the world’s first virtual waiting list, Take a Number. A customer can go online or text themselves into que without going to the shop. You can choose your barber by shop. You will receive a text message every 15 minutes to know when to come. Waiting is a big part of the Bolt experience, so our magazine collection is quite extensive. We offer everything from Mad magazine, Playboy, and The Economist. I check every 10 days to make sure things are updated. When you’re surrounded by people full of passion and love for what they do, the result is different than when they’re simply rewarded for closing transactions.