They’ve Got Male

Jake's Place, Norfolk, Virginia

Twenty years of running a profitable salon/spa might be enough for some, but when Norma Dorey noticed a gender shift in her industry’s clientele, she made a bold move and opened a second spa business. “Ever since I’d started in the industry in 1983, I’d had a lot of male clients constantly saying how nice it would be to have an environment of their own, where they didn’t have to be exposed to smelly perms, or risk running into their secretaries or neighborhood friends,” Dorey says. Finally taking the hint, in 2004 she opened Jake’s Place (named for her son).

A sanctuary for the gentlemen of Virginia, Jake’s offers tailored treatments such as exfoliating facials meant to promote healthy hair growth, waxing services that tend to those special places where guys get unwanted hair and sports massages designed to relieve even the most overtaxed male athlete’s muscles. Additional touches such as private barber booths; a rustic, leather-meets-granite design scheme; and LCD monitors broadcasting ESPN make it clear that Jake’s is a man’s world.

In an industry that’s still accustomed to catering primarily to women, why would an owner choose to go the male route? Dorey realized certain key advantages offered by this business model: “Men are very loyal to their appointments,” she reports. “They’re less fickle. They don’t stretch their appointments out and they don’t have nearly as many cancellations.” And keeping these clients happy has paid off: During the recent economic downturn, Dorey’s first business struggled while Jake’s Place continued to grow.

But snagging this clientele requires marketing savvy, she warns. “Men definitely want to see value for the money they spend,” Dorey says. “You have to be able to show them value and results effectively in order to sell them on a service or product.”

But before you can demonstrate your spa’s worth, you have to get them in the door. Social media blasts advertising service offerings in man-friendly verbiage (think: “Half Time Specials” announced during strategic weekday hours) catch plenty of local men’s attention. But what’s worked best, Dorey says, is reaching out to her neighbors directly. “We are very connected within our community,” she says. “Last year we partnered with our neighbor gym and an exclusive men’s clothing store to host a holiday fashion show. And we built rapport among men before even opening Jake’s by hosting ‘Monday Men’s Nights’ at my other, unisex spa. We’d comp services to help introduce men to the world of spa-going.”

Jake’s Place

Open since: April 2004
Square footage: 3,000
No. of employees: 12
Facilities: 2 massage rooms; facial room; private steam room and locker room; 4 pedicure chairs; 2 manicure stations; 5 hair stations
Most popular treatments: Signature Haircut & Shave (60 min./$50); Ten Toe Touchdown (60 min./$50); Hot Lather Shave (30 min./$25)
Product lines: American Crew, John Allan, Nioxin, Kneipp, RAW Rhonda Allison For Men