Fellow Barber Enters Merger Agreement With Rudy’s Barbershops

Rudy's parent company Sortis and Fellow Barber will merge their shops and combine resources, including Fellow Barber's academy.

By: Obi Anyanwu

July 19, 2022

New York barbershop and grooming brand Fellow Barber and Sortis Holdings on Tuesday revealed the merger of Fellow Barber and Rudy’s Barbershop.

Fellow Barber and Rudy’s will share and combine resources, including Fellow’s barbering school that will train everyone within the group. The shops now have blended ownership and the partners said Fellow Barber and Rudy’s will continue to operate as usual. Fellow Barber founder Sam Buffa will lead both barbershops and partner with Ryan Suddendorf, who will become the vice president and chief operating officer of barbershops.

“For the outside person looking in, it will look no different,” said Buffa. He opened Fellow Barber’s 12th barbershop at Hudson Yards in New York City this year. With the merger, their shared number of locations now sits at more than 40 shops. Fellow Barber operates 12 locations in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco while Rudy’s operates 31 locations in five states including New York, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Georgia.

Rudy’s opened a location in June in Beaverton, Oregon, and Sortis executive chairman Paul Brenneke said Rudy’s will open locations in Totem Lake in Kirkland, Washington, and Cedar Hills Crossing in Beaverton, Oregon, this year and in early 2023.

“It made sense to bring the shops together to champion barbering and cosmetology and grow the industry in general,” Buffa said.

Buffa said he had been interconnected with Rudy’s for a long time, first as a customer at their Los Angeles location, and continued to watch it even after founding Fellow Barber in 2006. “I stayed friendly with Rudy’s founders Wade [Weigel] and David [Petersen] who introduced me to Paul, who invested in Rudy’s years ago,” Buffa explained. “We thought wouldn’t it be great if we could all work together?” Brenneke added that they worked on the merger for at least nine months.

Rudy’s was adversely affected by COVID-19 and had to close its doors for longer than it had anticipated. Sortis acquired Rudy’s out of bankruptcy with its original partners and rebuilt the company.

Rudy’s was founded in 1993 by Weigel, Petersen and Alex Calderwood, who passed away in 2013. The barbershop joins a number of companies under the Sortis portfolio, including restaurants and hotel properties revived through the Sortis Rescue Fund that was launched during the pandemic.

Brenneke said since Rudy’s revival, business has been a steady, uphill climb and is well above 2019. “What held us back has been hiring and training,” he said. “The impetus is to help more people into the business.” And that’s where Fellow Barber comes in.

Founded in 2006, Fellow Barber operates barbershops and a grooming line as well. Its latest location at Hudson Yards also houses a barbering academy where new barbers can hone their craft. Brenneke said the merger “gives our people a path to grow, combine training and provide different price points and services as we expand to new markets.”

“We both gain many years of shared experience,” Buffa added. “Rudy’s has always championed who they’ve employed, they’ve always been an inclusive shop and we’ve been inspired by that. There is so much goodwill the companies can put together.”

As for business at Fellow Barber, “A lot of the staffing problems that existed are starting to subside,” Buffa said. “We’ve done a lot of work training our workforce. Some shops are above 2019 numbers and others are nipping at it. As more people are going back to offices, we’re seeing a great response. California has been slower to getting back to where it’s been.”