New ownership, familiar faces at men’s salon

James Irving mural
A mural painted by James Irving Stylist Bethany Richards depicts Uptown landmarks and the salon’s lion symbol, a nod to great hair, masculinity and owner Amanada Olusanya’s love of animals. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

The facade on the men’s salon along West Lake Street in Uptown has changed several times over the years, but the crew of stylists inside has held constant.

Now under new ownership, and recently rebranded as the James Irving Grooming Room, the crew at the former Winston’s Barbershop is happily focused on their job: providing high-quality masculine haircuts and styling.

What started as Schmidty’s Barber Retreat in the early 2000s became Tommy’s on Lake and then Winston’s Barber Shop in 2007.

But last September, Winston’s found itself on its last legs, current manager Drue Malcolm said. One Thursday at the end of the month they were told the salon would be closed by that Saturday.

Enter Amanda Olusanya, who has owned Allen Ray Salon Downtown for 10 years. That week, Olusanya was meeting with a realtor scoping out a place for a second Allen Ray location. She’d been planning on another Downtown salon when the building owner told her he’d heard the Winston’s spot in Uptown might be available in two months.
As it would happen, he was slightly off.

“It wasn’t two months and it wasn’t maybe,” Olusanya laughed.

That Friday, Malcolm got a text from Olusanya saying she was interested in the space and wanted to gauge the level of interest of current staffers to stay on board. In just a few days, she got a business license and signed a lease. The next week, the shop was running as normal, if under new management, with the same crew.

“It was the fastest turnaround,” manager Drue Malcolm said.

A year later, nearly all the former stylists at Winston’s are still working at James Irving. Stylists Eric Snyder and Kyle Olson have been there through all the salon’s versions, dating back to 2002.

Although ownership changed fast, Olusanya only recently began to rebrand the space. In August, the Winston’s signs came down and the new title, James Irving Grooming Room, was displayed. They added a new mural in the lobby, painted by stylist Bethany Richards, featuring their lion symbol and Uptown landmarks. Olusanya is continuing to update the salon’s interior to make it a comfortable place to hang out.

Despite ownership changes, the consistency of staffers has created a familiar environment for customers.

“We all know each other’s clients,” Snyder said.

Considered a men’s salon, James Irving serves all genders but every stylist specializes in masculine cuts, Malcolm said.

“This is the only shop in the Twin Cities where you’re not going to get a bad haircut,” she said.

Olusanya plans to open more men’s salons under the James Irving name and plans to rename her downtown Allen Ray salon James Irving Grooming Room as well.

James Irving Grooming Room
1608 W. Lake St.