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The Passion of the Cut: Interview With Third Generation Barber Gregory Zorian III

Gregory Zorian III is a third generation barber and barbershop owner with two locations in the greater Albany region of upstate New York. In its current iteration Gregory’s Barbershop has been thriving for 22 years, but the tradition dates back to 1931, when his grandfather Gregory Zorian opened his shop and then passed it on to Zorian’s father, who practiced for over 50 years.

“I was very fortunate to apprentice under my father,” says Zorian. “He was barbering during the longer-hair days and was then re-trained on razor cutting. I learned a lot of hairstyling and hairdressing techniques from him.” In New York one can get a license after a 2-year apprenticeship – rather than going to school – and this is exactly what Zorian did.

After earning his license he was employed by a major clipper manufacturer and trained with their barber, picking up even more skills of the trade. Despite working 12- to 13-hour days and doing 30 to 40 haircuts a day, Zorian only sees the experience as formative: “It was the best possible education I could have gotten,” he says.

Two decades later Zorian applies the same tireless work ethic to his enterprise. In addition to owning a barbershop in two locations includes a popular online education platform and a new product line, Zorian of NY.

Guiding philosophy

“You have to have passion for what you’re doing,” says Zorian. “There can’t be anything else you would rather do. You need to eat, sleep, and breathe it.” These days Zorian’s passion is split between being a service provider behind the chair and a (multiple) business owner. “If your answer is ‘I want something to fall back on,’ this isn’t going to work for you.”

As the owner of HowtoCutHair.tv it’s no surprise that education is another tenet of Zorian’s career. The online platform offers free instructional videos as well as a subscription service to access a larger library. Zorian also hosts in-person workshops throughout the year. He regularly travels to schools, salons, and trade shows to pass on his knowledge.

Setting yourself apart

Zorian’s customer-first approach is reflected in the hours kept at his two establishments: They’re open until 8 p.m. on weeknights and Mondays in at least one shop. “Our hours are very convenient for our clients and families,” says Zorian. “And we appeal to everybody, from children through seniors.”

In some ways the extended hours are a throwback to Zorian’s early days working 12+ hours. But insists the convenience factor is a great way for a new owner, barber, or stylist to set themselves apart. “It has to be about convenience for the customer, not convenience for you,” he says.

Adopting SalonTarget as a management tool has also made a difference in customer service. “We do a lot of volume, so it quickly became cumbersome for our receptionist to make 60 reminder calls on a given day,” says Zorian. “With SalonTarget’s automated appointment reminders, our receptionists are not on the phone as often, which means they can do a better job greeting and servicing the customers who walk in the door.” The software has also been a welcomed addition for the many customers who wanted to book online. “It’s made everything more efficient.”

Acting on ideas

The online education platform is just one example of Zorian’s ability to take a wild idea and run with it. “I had the idea of starting a website with videos while driving home from a vacation,” he says. “But I didn’t have a videographer, a photographer, and I had never filmed anything in my life.” Investing in the equipment was a “no going back” moment. Now HowToCutHair.tv delivers over 15 hours of instructional video to thousands of subscribers.

A more recent example of Zorian’s follow through mentality can be seen in his new product line, Zorian of New York. Underwhelmed by many of the products he had used over the years, Zorian became determined to get it right. He worked with a chemist for years, iterating until the formula was exactly the way he wanted, right down to the light, clean fragrance. “I wanted it pleasing, but not overbearing,” he says. “It couldn’t interfere with colognes and body sprays.”

The sulfate and paraben-free product line includes gel, pomade, cream, paste, and a spray.

Learn more about Zorian, his businesses, and owning a barbershop:

Gregory’s Barbershop Vital Stats

Locations: Clifton Park, NY 12065 AND Delmar, NY 12054-1911
Chairs: 18
Employees: 22-28 (includes barbers, cosmetologists, and support staff)
Year Opened: 1995
Core Services: Men’s and boy’s haircuts; shorter female haircuts
Website: GregorysBarbershop.com
Phone: (518)371-7400

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