How Il Mulino’s Pioneering Spirit Pushes the Envelope on Grooming and Self-Care in Western New York

Summary: Il Mulino in Western New York is more than just a barbershop. The progressive grooming and self-care brand turned to SQUIRE to help deliver a consistent, modern customer experience and helped them deliver on the Founder’s strong vision and long-term goals for the business. 

Walk into any one of Il Mulino’s six locations in Western New York and you’ll quickly discover this is not a traditional barbershop. In them, you may find lush greenery, seasonal cocktails, private event spaces for parties, cosmetic treatments, and custom tailored men’s apparel. Still, at the heart of Il Mulino is the tradition of barbering and the values instilled in it by CEO & Founder Jared White. 

Jared White, CEO & Founder of Il Mulino in Buffalo, NY

How Il Mulino Is Blending the Best of the Modern and Traditional Together

White has been in the grooming industry for over a decade. Coming out of high school, he had the drive to become a barber, but at a time when the average haircut in his hometown was less than $10, his family worried about him making ends meet. But after a few years in college, he moved to Buffalo and quickly picked back up on his dream of becoming a barber.

The first six years he spent working for another brand where he learned a lot about the art of barbering. But when it came to the business of barbering, White had other visions for what a shop could be. When the barber's booth rent doubled overnight, he knew it was time to take control of his career’s future.

White comes from a family with strong entrepreneurial impulses. He grew up watching his grandmother run the family’s small business–a shoe store. 

“Watching my grandmother engage and interact with the patrons coming in and supporting our small family business,” White recounted, “I knew what type of weight that carried at a very young age.”

When it came time to start out on his own, White knew that the vision of the Il Mulino brand would bring together that old school approach to business–the humility, work ethic and care for community that his family instilled in him–and the new school approach to grooming. 

The bar at Il Mulino where customers can order seasonal cocktails.

Building Up and Branching Out at Il Mulino

The first location of Il Mulino opened in downtown Buffalo. In the beginning, the team consisted of White, the Founder, and four other people. In the 5 years since launching Il Mulino, it now has 6 locations and over 80 employees–plus a barbering academy opening soon in Buffalo.

It all started with a strong brand vision.

“I wanted to create a brand that everybody felt comfortable supporting and working for. That’s why we came up with the name of Il Mulino. It means “the mill” in Italian, but it also relates to the way people milled about the room shaking hands. So from the beginning it was always about community and relationships.”

One other benefit of the name for his brand is the fact that, without his name or the word “barbershop” in the company name, it has allowed Il Mulino to grow beyond barbering alone–and for others in the company to take a starring role. Rather than everyone looking for Jared from Jared’s Barbershop, clients choose the right location and price point for themselves.

The Il Mulino team found a winning formula with their take on men’s grooming and aesthetics. Even White was surprised by the way things have gone.

“From the very beginning I always had a kind of bigger vision in mind,” White said. “I just didn’t expect to grow so quickly and so rapidly tapping into other sectors.” 

The flexibility of the Il Mulino branding combined with the humility to always be learning and being inspired has helped push the company forward. 

“​​I'm a huge proponent of continuing education,” White said. “I still cut hair two days a week. I’ve always had good people around me, advisors and mentors. And I’m always just hopping onto Instagram or Google and typing in ‘best barbershops,’ ‘best cocktail bars,’ and just kind of seeing what’s going on and educating myself on what great brands are doing.”

That ethos of constantly learning is carried on in everything, from the evolution of the brand aesthetics to who they hire. 

At Il Mulino, barbers are constantly learning about the art—and business—of barbering.

How Grit Becomes Greatness in a Rust Belt City

One of White’s fears about opening Il Mulino in Buffalo was that it would be a little too progressive for the city. 

“Buffalo is a Rust Belt city–it’s like Bills Mafia or nothing,” White said. “It was definitely a concern of mine on how it would be received. Still, I understood the fact that we, as a community in Buffalo, have to move the needle forward in a positive direction, whether it’s haircuts, fashion, or cocktails. That’s what really motivated me to keep pushing forward.”

The concern seems to be unfounded, as Il Mulino has been welcomed in Buffalo and Western New York more broadly. 

With the growth and success has come complexity and a need for technology to keep up with their brand. In the summer of 2020, Il Mulino started to look for a solution that could go beyond their current booking app to support their multi-location commission shop business.

Ultimately, the Il Mulino team moved away from their prior, stagnating platform and landed on SQUIRE to support their brand’s goals and growth. Some of the reasons White and his executive team chose SQUIRE included:

  • The steady stream of updates and innovation from SQUIRE to support barbershops
  • The sales reports that help inform the CFO and the rest of the executives on strategy and next steps for the business
  • The ability to enforce their 24-hour cancellation policy in the app
  • The operational efficiency that SQUIRE’s scheduling and notification features offer

Since starting with SQUIRE, Il Mulino has also rolled out their own custom-branded SQUIRE app, that gives them a way to manage their customer experience in their own aesthetic and on their own terms. 

Haircuts, aesthetic treatments, and cocktails together make Il Mulino a unique experience in the world of men's grooming.

How SQUIRE Elevates Il Mulino’s Day-to-Day Operations

Frank Dinoto, the Operation Manager, helps oversee scheduling across all the barbershop locations and works with barbers to help them build up their craft as they move up from apprentice barber to one of the four other more senior titles. The titles reflect the experience and skill levels of the barbers–and help clients find the right service in their price range, since the pricing differs from level to level. 

Needless to say, Dinoto has a full schedule keeping everything running smoothly and up to Il Mulino’s standards, and SQUIRE helps him stay on top of it all.

“Before I worked here I was a client of Jared’s, so I’ve seen the evolution of booking appointments from phone calls and texts to other booking softwares,” Dinoto said. “I found the most success with SQUIRE booking. Managing the locations is a very, very streamlined process through the app. When clients use our app, they book and are able to see the locations and when our barbers are available. It’s the same as when you book on our website.”

That level of consistency is key for Il Mulino. And Dinoto strives to instill that consistency across the entire client experience. 

“No matter who you see, you’re gonna get the same service as you would from our Founder, Jared,” Dinoto said. “Our biggest thing is consistency across the board. Not only the cuts, but from when a client comes in and is greeted to the experience is finished. 

Several SQUIRE features help Dinoto and the barbers he helps oversee deliver that consistent client experience. 

For the barbers, online booking combined with the SQUIRE Engage that helps streamline and automate much of the customer communications. It allows the barbers and the receptionists to focus on providing clients in the shop with the Il Mulino experience, rather than constantly being tied up on the phone.

For Dinoto, he takes advantage of SQUIRE’s reporting capabilities to keep track of barbers’ progress. His favorite views include the growth reports and the Leaderboard, which gives him the ability to see how the barbers, services, and products are performing across each location, including the productivity percentage for each barber. 

As a mentor to many of the barbers, these reports help him and other leaders provide guidance and further training to help elevate the staff. 

At the end of the day, what Dinoto likes best about SQUIRE is how well it works with their entire brand. 

“The way SQUIRE is integrated with our website, everything’s very streamlined, very transparent,” Dinoto said. “It’s very easy on the eyes–there’s no mishegoss that will confuse clients.”

For a brand that’s straddling the line between progress and tradition, Il Mulino looks to SQUIRE as a partner in delivering a consistent and seamless customer experience. As Il Mulino continues to develop their brand and services and expand into new locations, they’re looking to SQUIRE to evolve and improve alongside them. 

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