Grooming Lounge, the men’s salon that first opened its doors in DC in 2002, with a second location that followed in Northern Virginia in 2007, is about to go international. After over a dozen years in the business, the company announced in April that they plan to start franchising, starting with a location in Dubai which is slated to open in 2017.
Though Grooming Lounge founder and CEO Mike Gilman says that over the years a number of people have mentioned how they’d love to have a Grooming Lounge in their area, until a year and a half ago, the idea of franchising didn’t appeal to him.
“We didn’t want to let go control just because we have such a focus on making it high quality and making the service experience what we wanted it to be. But about 18 months or so ago, we just really got to a point where a lightbulb went off, and we said, ‘Why wouldn’t we do this?'” says Gilman. “We have kind of all the documentation and operational awareness and operational efficiencies that we’ve perfected over the last fourteen years on how to run a Grooming Lounge…We said, ‘We already have the stuff, why don’t we go down that road of creating it?'”
Gilman says that they aren’t looking to open hundreds of stores right away, but that he would be happy with “ten great partners that were ideal and a good fit for Grooming Lounge.” Though it wasn’t part of the initial plan to start with an international franchise, Gilman says the chance to open a third Grooming Lounge overseas arose after a visitor to his Northern Virginia location thought it would be a good fit in Dubai, and Gilman wasn’t about to turn the opportunity down.
The expansion of Grooming Lounge may be right in line with what Gilman sees as trend in the rise of salons and self-care products marketed to men.
“We’ve seen a big increase in men that are getting skincare services,” says Gilman, who attributes the rise in popularity to the increase in awareness—through television and other media—of men’s spa services. “It’s kind of mainstreamed it a little bit so guys feel a lot more comfortable taking care of themselves,” says Gilman. “I think the other thing is, kind of in lock step with that, [is] there’s been a big growth in the amount of places that guys can have [salon and spa services] done. There’s been a huge increase in number of products available that guys can use to take care of themselves, so they have a huge selection.”
It does appear that men’s self-care has been on the rise: NBC reported in January that men’s grooming is a $6 billion industry and that barbershops and beard-care product businesses are growing rapidly. Locally, we’ve witnessed the trend as Joe Grooming opened their first brick and mortar in DC in 2015, and the Barber of Hell’s Bottom—which first opened in 2013—has expanded to three DC locations.
Some of the new products available for men are Grooming Lounge’s own, the most recent of which include a “Mug Scrubber” face wash and a “Whisker Sauce” beard lotion—both of which Gilman says were added to address the current popularity of men’s facial hair. Adding more men’s grooming products to their roster is part of Grooming Lounge’s overall growth plan, along with their new franchise locations. As for whether or not Washington will get another Grooming Lounge location, only time will tell.
“It probably wouldn’t be [in] DC proper, but we’ve spoken with people everywhere from Richmond to Rockville to Gaithersburg,” says Gilman. “If it’s the right partner and the right place, we’re certainly interested and open to talk about it.”