Hops Barbershop Opens Inside Wild Iris Florals at 629 N. Central Street

Hop's Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023
Hop’s Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023

It’s not where you might expect to find a barbershop. Co-owner Katie Hopper likened it to a speakeasy, though the beautiful, light, and airy space doesn’t bring a noir vibe in the least. She and husband Matt Hopper co-own the new business and he will be doing the honors behind the barber chair. She has quite a history of managing hair establishments, so she will be the power behind the scenes.

Katie was born and raised in Knoxville, graduating from West High School. After that she sums up her journey as going “down random career paths.” She worked as a pre-school teacher, nanny, and then worked for a salon, thinking she might want to eventually cut hair. She never got to that, moving from front desk to location director (site manager) in a matter of months. She worked for a barbershop and a salon, working as managers at both locations. For the last three years she’s managed Magpies and loves the entire family there and she’ll continue that job.

Matt was born in Memphis, but grew up in Fountain City, attending Central. He started playing in punk rock bands in high school and drawing posters for the band. He attended UT briefly in design, but upon getting a job as a screen printer with an apparel company, he quit school to focus on that. Quickly promoted to graphic artist and eventually to Creative Director, he stayed with the company for seven years. While working that job he accepted freelance graphic design jobs. His business grew rapidly, and he left the company, working as an independent designer for ten years.

Hop’s Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023
Hop’s Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023
Hop’s Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023

He’d always had an “interest in barbering. I thought it was a super cool trade.” He said he had every manner of haircut over the years, particularly while in the bands and he cut hair for members of the band, “shaving mohawks, making spikes.” Over the fourteen years the two have been married, Matt got to know many people in the hair industry. He said he always saw it as a retirement idea when he finished his freelance design work. But he missed the interaction with people.

When the pandemic hit, his design jobs dried up. Realizing there is never a great time to go to school, this seemed like as good a time as any and his “retirement job” became his next step. He attended barber school starting in 2020, graduating in November 2022, passing his boards, and beginning work in a shop within days. He described it as a “walk-in heavy shop,” and “a trial by fire.” He quickly decided to escalate his plan of having his own business.

Each of them brought something to the business that helped it open more quickly and cheaply. He did the design work and had a vision of the vibe he wanted to establish. She knew the industry, had also helped her family in renovation jobs, and could set up the business end, help make sure the layout was functional, and work with décor. Megan Wright, owner of Wild Iris and a friend of the couple, arbitrated when they disagreed. They collected wood from inside the building and he built cabinets. It was Megan who encouraged them to use the space in the back of the florist.

Matt said, “We had a great opportunity and it fell into place.” Katie added that relationships in the community are key to opening doors and the couple has made many of them along the way. Relationships are what the two want to foster through their shop. Katie said, “You know the dad, the granddad, the kid, the nephew. Matt added, “We want to do good work and focus on relationships. I want people to know they are important and build a community. I like hearing people’s stories . . . For some people it’s almost like therapy where others just want to plug in. We love this area. Being in North Knoxville is really important to us.” The couple lives in the community, just a few minutes from the shop.

Hop’s Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023
Hop’s Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023

They are excited about all parts of the business including having a shop inside of a shop. They consider the floral shop their very cool entryway. Their esthetic is visible in every direction, from album covers and concert art to furniture pieces from their grandmothers. I sat in “Grand-Jan’s” chair next to Grand-Jack’s lamp. They have some art for sale, and they have a vintage closet (it’s a literal closet) filled with items (skateboard culture, bands, Disney) curated by their friend Justin Worley who owns Never-Aged Vintage. Those items are for sale, as well, and are as easy to purchase as scanning the barcode beside the closet.

Most of the materials inside the shop are re-purposed — or have been exposed in the wall as they did the renovation. You’ll find oddities like an aunt’s black velvet horse poster. I got a kick out of seeing a John Denver album beside a Blink-182 poster — perhaps the only place in the world the two would be found side-by-side. There is a small shelf in the shop from Matt’s grandparent’s chair. They also bought items from local shops like Mood Ring Vintage and Never-Aged Vintage. The floors have new tile designed to work with the vibe of an old barbershop.

Owners Matt and Katie Hopper, Hop’s Barbershop, 629 N. Central Street, Knoxville, July 2023

Initially, Matt will do most of the cutting. He’s hired a part-time barber (and friend) to help. He plans to add others only as the business builds so that everyone has enough money. “We’re not trying to get rich. I want to have a cool place to work, and I want to enjoy the people I work with and the community we build with our clientele . . . We want it to be relaxed and not crammed.”

The shop is open Tuesday through Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday’s 9:00 – 2:00. The couple has opted not to have a phone (or televisions) which would ring in the space and require cuts to stop for someone to answer. Appointments (book one for this month to be entered in a prize drawing) may be made through the website and walk-ins are encouraged as long as they are able to accommodate the demand. You can also get updates (and give them a “follow”) on their Facebook page or on Instagram.