Sex sells at this Jersey Shore barbershop
LONG BRANCH – Jeff Wulkan has two rules for his staff: be state certified and be able to fit into a bikini.
The 29-year-old Long Branch resident opened Bikini Barbers – a full-service hair salon – in Feb. 2011, just steps away from the Atlantic Ocean in a strip mall on Ocean Boulevard.
Less than two years later, Bikini Barbers has been the subject of a "reality" television series – AXS TV’s “Bikini Barbershop: Jersey” – and Wulkan is getting offers to open franchises of his beach-themed hair salon from across the county.
Pretty good for a business venture Wulkan started on a whim after getting a degree in aeronautical science.
“I was sick of the lack of options there were to get a haircut. You either had to go to a high-end hair salon or one of those 70-year-old guys who have shaky hands and can barely see anymore. So I decided to open my own,” Wulkan said. “And here, for $2 more than it costs to go to Supercuts, you can get your hair cut by hot girls in bikinis.”
Wulkan said he recruits most of those “hot girls” through social media sites.
East Brunswick resident Alissa Koller heard about a job opening at Bikini Barbers on Facebook. The tall, 22-year-old former model was a quick hire.
“I had worked in a few other salons before, but this was a different kind of atmosphere. It’s more laid back,” said Koller, who commutes to Long Branch several days a week to work at the salon. “Plus, I like cutting men’s hair better.”
However, Koller said the staff does get asked a lot different questions at this salon than at the others she has worked at, ranging from inquiries about their attire to inappropriate questions from some male customers.
“And even though the place is called Bikini Barbers, there are people who are surprised to see that we actually wear bikinis,” she said. “It’s funny, because that happens a lot.”
But working in a bikini everyday does have its drawbacks, she said.
“Getting the hair shavings all over you kind of sucks,” Koller said.
While Wulkan said 87 percent of the barbershop’s customers are men – mostly business professionals and college-aged males – he said the salon does get a lot of business from females and children.
“They like the beach theme, especially in the summer,” he said. “And we have the fish tank up front, so the kids get a kick out of that.”
Long Branch resident Ellen Schwartz recently saw a discount advertisement for Bikini Barbers at a nearby business and decided to see if any of girls were “up to the challenge” of cutting her hair.
Koller confidently took on the challenge, and Schwartz said she did not mind that Koller was in a thin bikini while she did it.
“If she’s comfortable wearing that, then I’m delighted for her,” Schwartz said.
The salon offers everything from haircuts and highlighting to waxing and massages – though the masseuse usually puts on more clothes when she’s with customers, Wulkan said.
“She’s alone in a room with them,” he said. “We don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.”
But Wulkan does not shy away from using sexual references to promote his business. On AXS TV’s Web site for the show, Wulkan is dubbed “the Hugh Hefner of hair” and is shown surrounded by bikini-clad girls while wearing Hefner-esque attire and holding a martini glass. The show itself also has several blatantly sexual themes, such as discussions about sex toys and a trip to a strip club where some of the girls make out with each other.
So far this has helped business, Wulkan said, even though many of show’s themes were “made up” and do not play a part in the shop’s actual operations. In fact, opposite to Hefner, Wulkan said he would never get involved with one of his employees.
The business, he said, is too important.
“I want to be bigger than Hooters and all of the other similar theme businesses. I want to have salons up and down both coasts and in every college town,” said Wulkan, who was in Los Angeles last weekend meeting with television producers and potential franchise investors. “And I think it’s about to take off.”