It’s more than just a store. For owner Scott Sabramsky; it’s about promoting a lifestyle that embraces all that is good about being a man – in a way that is stylish, cool and authentic.
Last year, he opened Deadleaf Distinguished Gentlemen at 42 Dundas St. East in the heart of downtown Napanee. It’s a combination retail outlet and high-end grooming experience catering to men who want to live a life of integrity, trust and honesty – but genuinely masculine in an old-fashioned, Cary Grant-esque kind of way.
“I wanted to create a place that had that old Barber Shop mentality where men could sit and shoot the breeze, get cleaned up and hopefully feel better walking out than they did walking in. It’s like a male version of a high-end spa for women. I want men to look better, and carry themselves better. It’s an attitude and philosophy as much as anything,” said Sabramsky, who worked on the road in corporate sales for a number of years, before deciding he wanted a change of priorities and lifestyle.
“I want this place to be an experience. I am focused more on that than the products people are coming to buy. I just love the olden days mentality of having a place for discourse and place where young men in particular can kind of reshape their identity. I want to offer young men and gentlemen in general, something different than what is currently being offered.”
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Deadleaf carries unique men’s fashion accessories and grooming products for skin, hair and facial hair, as well as vaping paraphernalia. And it also has an old-school barber’s chair, where men … and even some women … can get a shave and/or a haircut that is close cropped, yet still elegantly hip and modern. This also ties in with a second, home-based company that is directly related to the retail outlet which Sabramsky launched on Nov. 1 – The Distinguished Life.
“I manufacture my own men’s grooming products now. So I have shave oils, beard oils, hair and skin moisturizers, pomades and getting into deodorants – pretty much the essentials for men’s grooming. And these products are 100 per cent natural and made 100 per cent right here in Napanee,” Sabramsky said.
With such a unique business, Sabramsky said his biggest challenge was remaining patient and allowing the store’s reputation to filter out into the public domain and seeing the word of mouth intensify as weeks turned into months.
“It just takes some time to grow. There’s a lot of time and energy put into building a business and keeping it consistent. Maintaining the integrity that I opened it with and maintaining the experience that I am trying to deliver has been key. And it’s also hard because I have five kids at home and coach hockey and there are days when I am tired. So I would say the hardest part has been sticking with it,” he said.
“And keeping my energy up and always working to share and improve that experience with everyone who comes into the store. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it when you have someone walk in and leave with a huge grin on their face and they share that experience with people or on Facebook. It’s great when people come into your store, be they from here in town or from out of town, and even if they don’t buy anything, they’re happy and had a good time and they tell people and maybe 10 of those people come in and do buy something. It’s great to see, and it’s all about the experience and feeling welcome among like-minded men.”
Sabramsky said much of his marketing efforts have focused on two main groups: men under 30 and women over 30.
“I find many of the young men are very much in touch with their appearance – the millennial age is really taking a liking to the store. They are more likely to come in and purchase the additional products and services. But for anything over 30, I am 100 per cent targeting the wives and girlfriends who are saying to their men ‘hey, we’ve got a wedding. You need to go down there and get cleaned up,’” he said with a chuckle.
“For the most part they just need a little encouragement to come through the door. And then once they come in, I feel like they’ll be guests for life. Yes, it’s a store definitely geared towards men, but we actually do have female clientele who like the short haircuts and simple cuts as well. And the women are also in here buying items as gifts or getting gift cards and whatnot for their men.”
At present, about 50 per cent of Deadleaf’s business is local and the other 50 per cent comes from Prince Edward County, Kingston, Belleville and beyond.
“I have a lot of customers who make this a destination when they are traveling between Ottawa and Toronto. There are a lot of businessmen who have found the place throughout the summer shopping downtown with their wives. They discovered this place and now they show up once a month for a haircut or to buy some grooming products or accessories. I have lots of regulars coming in from the nearby communities like Belleville and Kingston too,” he said.
The retail outlet/barber shop and grooming products are just the first couple of stages of what Sabramsky has planned for his Deadleaf brand. Down the road he would like to create an environment where men can come and get their products, a haircut, sip fine whiskey, enjoy a high-end cigar, get a massage and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded men who appreciate a more refined – dare we say it – distinguished, lifestyle.
“I want it to be done in a classy way, with style. The goal is a sort of brotherhood where guys can go unwind. It’s a tough world out there and a lot has changed in terms of our roles as men and I think we need to be around other men who share the same modern vision and have the same integrity and feed off of one another’s strengths. I want a place that reinforces the good traits of manhood,” he said.