On Feb. 21, Marlowe General opened its doors as the newest barber and tattoo shop in downtown Kitchener. Marlowe General is located in the former Voila Salon space at 74 King St. W. and offers genderless grooming services, tattooing and beauty and grooming products.
Owners Sydney Laurie and Peter Greaves have been working to bring their vision for Marlowe General to life for over five years. Laurie is a stylist and said her experience in traditional hair salons inspired her to create a space where everyone could feel welcome.
Greaves was working in a local barbershop at the time. When Laurie discussed her frustrations with the owner, he offered her a spare back room for rent.
“It was just me and a chair, but it grew quickly. Then Peter jumped on board and it grew from there,” Laurie said.
The business, then known as Good Hair Co., started in a building on Park St. before moving to Lancaster St.and expanding its services to include tattooing and retail. Laurie said their goal with Marlowe General is to create a welcoming space for everyone.
“Peter and I worked at different salons and barber shops where you walked in the door as a client and
felt uncomfortable. You felt judged,” Laurie said. “I thought this was wild for the amount of money people are paying to come and have these services. Shouldn’t you feel amazing the second you walk in the door?”.
The opening of Marlowe General in downtown Kitchener comes at a time of economic uncertainty across the region. In January, the CBC reported that the commercial real estate vacancy rate in the downtown core was 36 per cent, and the retail vacancy rate could be as high as 14 per cent.
Laurie is a longtime downtown resident, and Greaves has called the area home since 2013.
Laurie said they can feel the pre-pandemic life returning to the city’s core with new businesses opening and events returning to the area.
She added that one advantage of being downtown is the collaborative community of downtown business owners.
“This is where our heart is. It’s where people are. It’s where our community is. It’s where our friends own businesses. I do feel the buzz coming back,” Laurie said.
One of those collaborations is the addition of tattooing. Marlowe General rents booths to tattoo artists Trisha Abe and Haley Payne.
Payne is a newcomer to the area, having moved from Brantford to work in the Marlowe General space.
Marlowe General’s retail space is another addition to the business’s mission to support everyone in the
community. Customers can find curated beauty and grooming products, from hair and skin care to shaving.
Laurie said they had always wanted to offer retail, but their previous locations didn’t have the space needed. She added that she hopes to see more retail return downtown.
“We have an ‘exit through the gift shop’ potential with the tattoo parlour and salon. It’s safeguarded in a way that even if we make no money off of it, we’re still renting the other areas. We’ve got people coming through every day walking through the store. Maybe that’s the ticket to making retail succeed,” Laurie said.
Retail stores have struggled due to the increase in the use of e-commerce. Laurie said she thinks Marlowe General’s mix of services and retail could become a successful model for other businesses.
“I would love for downtown to have more retail; I think it’s crazy that we don’t have it. Our downtown is so beautiful, and I want more reasons for people to come and see it,” Laurie said.
Visit marlowegeneral.com to learn more about its services and retail options.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.