When I first moved back to Raleigh in the summer of 2013, finding a good haircut was a bit of a nightmare. The salons felt pretentious, impersonal, overpriced, or seriously lacking in quality. That fall, I came across a new store in Cameron Village with “Arrow” written across the window. I took to the Internet to see what it was all about and was thrilled to find out that someone was opening a barbershop with an old school feel. That’s how I initially met owner and local entrepreneur, Pete Phipps.
Arrow’s first location opened in December 2013. I was there a day later. When I walked in, Pete, who at the time manned the counter, greeted me with “How’s it going? Want a beer?” Good start. There were vintage Sports Illustrated cut outs lining the walls, amazing products for sale like Harry’s Razors, Happy Socks, Lumina Clothing, among others. The shop wasn’t a machine. It was intimate. A small bar in the front flanks the four barbers with a long mirror, and a bench lining the wall behind them. Clean, simple, inviting, and it's affordable. For $15 (+ tip), I walked out with my first good haircut since moving back home. I sat down for a hot shave on my next visit. Two years later, I’ve never walked out disappointed. That seems to be the general consensus, because Pete now employees twenty stylists at three locations. In July 2014, Pete opened a second Arrow location on 115 E. Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh (look for the fluorescent red arrow that says “CUTS”) and in May of this year, opened his third location, Pedro Williams at 624 9th St., in Durham (curious about the name? watch the video on their website).
As one of our favorite small business owners in the Triangle, we were thrilled to sit down with Pete and learn more about his story for the third installment of Raleigh Hustles Hard. After graduating from West Point Academy and serving five years active duty in the US Army, Pete moved to Raleigh in 2010. Before opening Arrow, Pete spent a couple of years as a Project Manager in Cary. He said, “I always knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial or small business related, and this allows for a fun, community based environment where we get to continuously meet new people.” As a kid, he valued the special experience of going with his dad to get a haircut at the barbershop. “Our aim is to bring it back to the old school, where you enjoy the bonding experience of getting a haircut instead of viewing it as an errand.” With Pete, everything comes back to people and building relationships. He’s quick to tell you that customer service is his primary focus and takes precedence over everything else. “When it’s all said and done, the way we treat people will make or break our business.” Like a true veteran and leader, he understands that people are also his greatest resource. “My goal is finding the right people and stressing the importance of customer service over anything else. The way you treat people is more important than anything you’ll do during the entire experience.”
Pete tells me his favorite part of being a small business owner is creating a unique, fun, and financially beneficial place for people to work. Giving people a breath of fresh air and a new start to their careers. Alternatively, his biggest challenge to keep himself and his team motivated, inspired, and ready to perform. “We’re on all the time. In this industry, everything is visible, so we’re not afforded the luxury of having a bad day. And when we do, we have to remember that it's never about us, it’s about the customer and their experience.”
Since moving to Raleigh half a decade ago, Pete has seen it evolve into a thriving city. He believes the constant growth has created a perfect environment for startups and small businesses. “When you start a small business anywhere, you’re going to be nervous, but when you look around Raleigh and see new restaurants, breweries, concert venues, museums, and apartment complexes popping up weekly, as a small business owner, that’s a huge relief. And we’re seeing the same thing in Durham, so that was a natural extension.” There are no immediate plans for further expansion, but rather to focus on the existing locations and keeping them consistent across the board.
Given the chance to do it all over again, Pete wouldn’t change a thing but says his biggest lesson learned as a small business owner, is to treat interviewing and hiring as a top priority. He says they’ve been fortunate to hire a lot of great people, which has and will continue to be a huge factor in Arrow’s success.
Go visit any of the locations in Raleigh or Durham, meet the team, and walk out with shorter hair. Guaranteed.
Learn more about Arrow & Pedro Williams as well as a few of Pete’s favorite small businesses in the area below:
Thanks for stopping by the porch,
Porch Fly Clothing