INTERVIEW: Fred Woo, Le Barbier D'Elwood
Posted by Buxton Lifestyle - 5 August 2019
Posted by Buxton Lifestyle - 5 August 2019
It's the village vibe and tight-knit, community spirit that its laidback locals thrive on and here, we get a glimpse of that lifestyle from local business owner and "Le Barbier D'Elwood", Frederic Woo. We caught up with Fred to talk shop, beards, becoming mates with clients, supporting local, and that enviable Elwood vibe.
How long have you worked/lived in the Elwood (or surrounding) area?
I started working in Elwood around 6 years ago before I opened Le Barbier d’Elwood on August 2016.
What influenced your decision to open up your barber shop in Elwood?
Elwood has a great environment for a traditional barbershop as it has the right mix of eclectic people in the area, and is also surrounded by really trendy suburbs. The barber shop is located in the vicinity of two primary schools and one secondary schools, great iconic cafes and bakeries amongst other reputable businesses; which made it easy to decide why I wanted to sit my 1st shop on 19a Ormond Road, Elwood.
Is it tough to encourage people to support local business and small business owners? In what ways do you get people to support your business (and stick with your business)?
Elwood is quite a tight community and is also pretty much a big village within a surburb, so it wasn’t too tough to build our clientele within the area. The use of social media’s local community pages, has contributed largely to getting the shop known within the area. Having said that though, in our industry, proximity, pricing and services are the important elements that would create the clientele.
Do you think there’s been a shift in people returning to their local shopping strips or will places like Chadstone or Emporium rule over small business?
Major shopping mall will always rule over small businesses. We obviously don’t have the capital that those major brands have, but our personal touch is what differs us from the commercial barbershops and hence why small businesses can thrive outside major malls.
What inspired or motivated you to create and run your own business?
Mostly because I wanted to create an environment where barbering could be taught to apprentices alongside having a business that prioritises quality barbering, so I created the brand Le Barbier, and am now trying to maintain our high ratings each day we open our door. But the real core of my ambition to run my own business came from past generations, as my family all own/had owned various types of businesses.
We can see that you are very passionate about providing your customers the full barber service. What makes your barber shop experience different to another salon?
I have been really selective about who I employ for the shop. As a master barber, I have always tried to keep the level of services consistently high so not only myself, but my staffs are the most highly trained to perform the services required. We also keep ourselves well informed about upcoming style and have been a trend setter in men’s hairstyles where some have been quite famous over the years. Our eclectic music and décor are also what differs us from other shops.
You have had extensive training under some well-known hair industry names such as Toni&Guy—how would you say that training and experience has helped shape you as not only a barber, but as a business owner?
I was quite lucky to have had training from Toni&Guy UK whilst I was living in Bordeaux. I've training from a master barber from Vidal Sassoon UK, which did bring a lot of knowledge on the savoir-faire and craftmanship on barbering. But throughout my years in the industry, I have been the starting barber for many barbershops, and I must admit, I had experienced all the highs and lows of a new shop, so when I opened my own, I was already prepared.
You have won many awards over your 19 years of experience in the hair industry. What were these awards for?
Most awards were for Traditional barbering, and I became Australian Traditional Barber of the year in 2017 which was the first in this category for me at that time.
What do these awards mean to you?
These awards mostly meant that my skill was appreciated by the industry and my peers, but also that Traditional barbering hasn’t been replaced by men’s cutters/hairdressers. The award also helps build my reputation for when I become an educator/ trainer in the trade.
What is your most popular service at Le Barbier d’Elwood?
We are renowned for being able to perform any type of cuts, which makes it hard to pick any popular services nowadays. But the one service that we excel in, and the one that got people travelling to us, would be for all of our beard services. Mixing both oriental and occidental beard cutting techniques, I have managed to create my unique style and it is really talked about on forums, among people with beards.
You must have a bunch of regulars, what do you love the most about the barber-client relationship and why do you think it’s important to the client?
I believe it is important to maintain a professional rapport with my clients regardless, but having said that, throughout time, friendship has been formed and I believe this is the most important outcome from the rapport barber-clientele. I won’t mention the perks, but it feels good to be appreciated as such!
When you’re not working, what local cafes and food spots do you like to visit in the local area?
I spend most of my six days of work in Elwood and I must admit, I would visit and buy my meal or coffees at every single shop in Elwood, hence supporting the locals, the same way they talk up my shop. I believe it is quite important to create a healthy relationship amongst businesses in the area.
When I am not working, you will find me roaming markets and all international food places that unfortunately aren’t in the vicinity of Elwood.
How would you describe Elwood to someone who’s never visited before?
Elwood is one of the few places where everything you might need is at walking distance, including the beach, interesting bars and a great mix of beautiful restaurants. Elwood also has the most beauty shops, cafes of all kinds, flower shops, organic butchers and three fruit shops, law firms , medical facilities amongst so many other premises—and all within one kilometre, which really gives that village feel within the community.
Elwood is also a place where movie stars, AFL players, great sports starts, singers etc...are seen walking down the streets or getting services together with the locals. In all, Elwood is very unique in its own way.
Le Barbier D'Elwood 19a Ormond Road Elwood
Mon, Wed & Saturday: 10 am - 6 pm
Thursday & Friday: 10 am - 7pm
Sunday 10 am - 3 pm