Chamblee, GA May 13, 2017 – by Emily Morris for The Post – At The Commodore Tonsorial Parlor, the name alone indicates an eschewal of the typical barbershop experience. The tiny storefront, recognizable by its black-painted scissors above the entrance and name in gilt and black letters, resides on the same block as Dutchmans Casual Living on Peachtree Road in Downtown Chamblee and may be easy to miss from the street. Step inside, however, and you will find yourself in a world of surprises.
Upon entering the glass door, I found myself in a clean, shiny, black-and-white space interspersed with mid-century modern chrome as well as gilt and wood antiques. A huge turn-of-the-century brass cash register sits at the back of the shop atop a Modernist solid walnut table, composed of the same wood as the state-of-the art marble-top barber stations. The décor speaks of an aesthetic that draws from barbershop traditions of the past married with a clean, modern sensibility.
Rob Hopper, barber and owner of The Commodore, infuses his vision and philosophy into all aspects of his business. He shuns ready-made culture in favor of hand-craftsmanship, exclusivity, and the value of time spent on customers individually, allotting forty-five minutes to a standard haircut. Hopper’s commitment to his ideals paid off, as The Commodore won the Best of Atlanta title its first year of business, when Hopper operated out of a warehouse in Sandy Springs. He moved to upcoming Downtown Chamblee where the shop opened on March 5th, 2017. Hopper chose the location for its proximity to Chamblee’s Antique Row District, and credits antique store owners for helping to provide information on historic barbershop interiors.
An antiques enthusiast, Hopper applied his love of history to the name of The Commodore as well, from the nickname of nineteenth-century shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. Tonsorial Parlor is a term for a barbershop often used in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Along with antiques, Hopper also supports local craftsmen such as Stori Dry Goods, owned by Atlantan Tori Mosley, who produced some of the leather goods in the shop.
In addition to the aesthetic and antique-meets-modern charm of The Commodore, the care Hopper takes in creating an ideal environment manifests in his barbering techniques. He traveled to London to study at Vidal Sassoon’s Sassoon Academy as well as Mazella&Palmer. Prior to moving to Georgia, Hopper lived in Florida where he worked with a predominantly Dominican and Puerto Rican clientele. As a result he has experience cutting and styling hair for customers of a variety of hair textures and ethnicities. He mastered the art of the fade as well as the use of scissors for men with longer hair when most barbershops solely use clippers.
While enjoying a steady stream of customers, Hopper has a few updates in the works. He plans to start a members-only shave club which a limited number of clients can join with a monthly subscription. Each client will have his own straight razor made by independent German steelware company DOVO. In addition, Hopper sells dry goods in his store such as leather wallets and he plans to expand the selection to include clothing and artwork.
I was fortunate to see one of The Commodore’s new changes during my visit. I met Joshua Noom, an artist visiting from Fort Myers, Florida, in the process of painting a large mural on the wall parallel to the barber stations. Noom and Hopper met playing in Christian bands in Florida, from which Noom went on to create album art for bands as well as many other commissions. Hopper displays one of Noom’s black and white paintings of an octopus on the wall in his bold, graphic style.
A trip to The Commodore Tonsorial Parlor is like a visit to the barbershops of the past with a contemporary twist. It manifests Hopper’s belief that a quality experience takes time, and small personal details make a barbershop, or any business, memorable. Make a trip and discover a gem within the heart of Downtown Chamblee.