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Not your father’s barber shop, but not so risqué your mother won’t go


A general contractor by trade, X-Builder owner John Peters III might seem an unlikely candidate to bring a cutting-edge hair business to Des Moines. But the 25-year-old entrepreneur is building a foundation for a business idea he said is sweeping the coasts – a lively place where men and women can get a haircut, watch satellite television, enjoy a few brews and shoot a game of pool.

“We have been turning heads since we first started,” punned Peters, owner of X-Salon, 1800 N.W. 86th St. in Clive. “When I told people this is what I was going to do, it blew their minds, but they thought it would be awesome.”

The salon offers a range of professional services, including eyebrow waxing for $10 and $55-per-hour massages performed by an independent massage therapist. It also sells haircare products for men and women. But the majority of X-Salon’s business is haircuts, during which customers are entitled up to three complimentary drinks, including soft drinks and beer.

When X-Salon opened in July, many traditional salon owners didn’t know what to think about their new competitor, Peters said. Now he said, they are embracing the idea.

“A lot of them think it’s a good idea, even if it seems a little trendy,” he said. “But I think it’s the wave of the future for salons. This isn’t the first of its kind, and it won’t be the last.”

The buzz around X-Salon has also included wild and unfounded rumors, Peters said. “We often hear, ‘Oh, that topless place,'” he said.

The salon’s 23-year-old manager, April Carlson, dressed in a conservative sweater and dress slacks, said she has heard people say that they thought she would be wearing a miniskirt and bikini top to work. She even had a few jealous wives call to ask what a massage entails.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said.

Peters concurred, adding he wants X-Salon to establish a reputation as a shop that is hip to hair trends and is known for its quality service as well as its atmosphere, which is designed to make people feel at home.

“It’s important to give the customer a place to relax, which is why we offer drinks and games to make our clientele more comfortable,” he said. “But after the novelty wears off, we want people to stick with us because they like our service.”

Carlson said X-Salon’s clientele is more diverse than people may think. From business executives to farmers and construction workers, from high school students to adults 60 years of age, her customers’ demographics wide-ranging. Thirty percent of the salon’s customers are women.

“It’s male friendly, but not so masculine that women feel uncomfortable,” she said.

Conversely, X-Salon isn’t too feminine for men either, said 24-year-old stylist Drea Cardenas.

“Men who come in to have their eyebrows waxed or to have their hair highlighted don’t think anything about it,” she said. “They’ve been having it done at other places, so they feel comfortable asking about it. They expect us to take care of them.”

Peters said business has picked up since he began an extensive radio, TV and print advertising campaign a few months ago. “We had an explosion of business after the commercials,” he said. Many of the ads are placed on male-friendly radio and television stations, including Lazer 103.3 and KJJC.

Peters wants to continue to remodel the salon, perhaps installing a sofa and big-screen television. He is also constructing an office for the staff, which currently includes two stylists but could expand to three or four depending on whether business continues to grow, Peters said.    “I want us to keep up on trends and make sure everything is up to date,” he said. “It’s a fun place to be.”  

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