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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 5 years ago

Running back in charge

Emmitt Smith is back in Florida.

Emmitt Smith is back in Florida.

But this time it's not for football. It's for a clean shave.

The NFL Hall-of-Famer and former Florida Gator is co-owner of The Gent's Place, an upscale men's grooming and “lifestyle club.” The chain has four locations with 2,300 members in Texas and Kansas. Florida is next on the expansion list.

According to founder Ben Davis, the company aims to open 150 franchise locations over the next five years, with at least 18 in Florida. After analyzing data of where its core customers reside, the company decided on six ideal locations along the Gulf Coast: Hyde Park Village, Westchase and Pebble Creek in Tampa, along with one location each in St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Naples.

The current locations have the highest revenue per unit in men's grooming franchises, says Davis, with each of the existing locations generating more than $1 million in sales annually. It costs between $440,000 to $700,000 to start a new franchise location.

Smith got interested from a real estate perspective, “but I ended up falling in love with the product,” the football star tells Coffee Talk.

Though he's not working the day-to-day operations, he is involved as an adviser and provides real estate services through his company, E Smith Realty Partners. He's also helped draw attention from his connections as interested investors.

The company is promoting opportunities through a targeted PR campaign and digital marketing. “On the football field — if you look good, you feel good, you play good,” Smith says. The same concept applies for the Gent's Place. Says Smith: “Men walk out of there feeling like a million dollars.”

The biggest challenge so far has been to spread the word that they are not just another barbershop. “It's the experience that separates you from others,” Smith says. The club includes a top-shelf bar and a member's lounge where people can hold business meetings or scotch and beer tastings.

“The haircut is just a vehicle to get people in the door,” Davis says. “There's a reason why Emmitt Smith is an owner with no hair.”

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