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Antwain “Kuts” Booker was so inspired by his father’s entrepreneurship and the barbers he visited as a kid that he decided to build his own haircut concept—from the tires up.
Booker is owner of New Element Barber, a mobile barber shop offering all the amenities of a luxury salon but out of the back of a 1994 Chevrolet Winnebago. The 25-foot-long recreational vehicle has come a long way from its family vacation days to now feature a faux fireplace, a double-door fridge packed with drinks, a bathroom, two 32-inch flat screen TVs, a hot towel warmer, a 30-gallon heated water tank for shampooing, hardwood floors, custom-made leather seating and a reclaimed barber chair from New York City.
“I’ve been cutting hair for 18 years, and I’ve seen the barber shops from the 1980s to 2020,” Booker said. “I think barber shops are losing their luster, they’re old-school things with guys sitting around playing checkers. It’s time for a change in the game, and I think the way I’m going is the way to be.”
Booker said he got the entrepreneurial bug from his father, who worked in Oklahoma’s oil fields before retiring to become a truck driver. Five years ago, Booker’s father bought a drilling rig company, a move that encouraged Booker to build a business of his own.
Looking back on his experience working at five different barber shops around Indianapolis, Booker thought the next evolution might be mobile. He researched mobile barber shops that were operating on the West Coast and then called a friend to see if his dad would sell Booker the rusted RV he kept out back.
Another family member connected him with a company in Georgia that gutted the vehicle and outfitted it with the luxury amenities. The expensive transformation took more than a year.
“I almost gave it up, but God is good and I was able to make things work,” Booker said.
He launched New Element Barber in October and set up its travel schedule.
The mobile barber parks at 3 Municipal Drive in Fishers on Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 351 Monon Blvd. in Carmel on Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 9160 Otis Ave. in Lawrence on Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and 710 E. 56th St. in Broad Ripple on Mondays, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Booker said he scouted those areas for two weeks to find places with high foot traffic, then worked with nearby property owners to ensure he could cut hair in peace.
A standard cut with a razor line and hot towel is $60 for adults, who can also enjoy a complimentary alcoholic beverage and New Element Barber-branded cigar imported from the Dominican Republic. The New Element fridge is stocked with beer, wine, champagne, juice, water and soda. He also offers a high-end selection of scotch, bourbon, vodka and tequila.
The price-point steps down to $30 for teenage customers and $20 for anyone under 13. Booker also offers services such as eyebrow arching, neck fades and shaves.
“It’s something different, it’s innovative. A lot of people haven’t seen a mobile barber truck,” Booker said. “When they look in there and see that bar, that fireplace, that TV, they go back and see that nice chair—they’re sold.”
Right now, he’s taking walk-ins but asking customers to go online to book future appointments. That way he can mitigate the risk of COVID-19 by limiting capacity to four occupants.
Booker plans to add Union Brewery in Carmel to his rotation, but that’s just one more step toward some long-term goals. Though he’s the sole force behind New Element Barber right now, he’s planning to eventually hire employees to operate a fleet of mobile shops.
“This isn’t the only truck I want to do. This is just truck number one. My end goal is to have trucks out like Amazon,” Booker said. “My end goal is to get to the customer, where we pull up at the door. Right now, since it’s a new luxury thing, it’s better for me to be out and about.”
5 thoughts on “New Element Barber brings mobile cuts to Carmel, Fishers”
Kudos to Kuts! When so many small businesses and entrepreneurs are being ravaged right now, it is refreshing to know that the entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Kuts, but from this family of entrepreneurs, we wish him the very best in success!
This is awesome! Congrats! I’ll stop by and see you.
Congrats and good luck!
Parking a mobile barbershop directly adjacent to a brick & mortal shop seems shortsighted and potentially ripe for conflict.
Congrats to you! Cool concept!