Rudy’s Barbershop — a fixture in the Seattle metro area since 1993 and with three stores on the Eastside — is preparing to reopen under the state’s phased COVID-19 guidelines and with the Rudy’s founders who regained management reins of the company they sold control of in 2014 and recently helped it emerge from bankruptcy.
“It really feels great to be back,” said cofounder Wade Weigel, who after selling his majority stake six years ago was saddened and wondered what he had done.
Rudy’s Bellevue store will be among the first three stores to reopen, along with Capitol Hill and Ballard, perhaps around June 15, due to its size and ability to socially distance customers, Weigel said. Rudy’s has 15 locations in Puget Sound, with its other two Eastside locations in Redmond: one downtown and one at the Microsoft campus.
Rudy’s plans to gradually reopen stores as employees feel comfortable returning, he said, hopeful the Redmond downtown location can reopen soon after the first group that opens.
“That’s one of our busiest stores, so we really want to get that one open,” Weigel said. Timing is less clear for the Microsoft location, which serves Microsoft employees, due to employees’ largely working from home.
Eventually, Weigel would like to see Rudy’s expand its Eastside presence, perhaps in Kirkland and Woodinville, or another store in Bellevue, but it’s too early to be specific, he said.
The group that brought Rudy’s out of bankruptcy included founders Weigel and David Petersen, other Northwest investors and Portland-based investment firm Sortis Holdings Inc., the latter of which supplied a “good chunk of the financing” to win the company back, said William “Butch” Bannon, manager of a Sortis fund focused on consumer businesses and brands.
Sortis quarterbacked the transaction to acquire Rudy’s and will work closely with the founders “to operationally get the company back up and running, and … we’re definitely going to be helping with some of the strategy moving forward as well,” Bannon said.
He praised the founders’ vision and company they created, which he called “a real sincere kind of melting pot for everyone to go.”
Of Weigel, Bannon said, “He is the personification of I think what is great in the entrepreneurial spirit as it relates to connecting people and creating community, which I think is very relevant today.”
Paul Brenneke, executive chairman of Sortis, said in a statement, “What intrigued us most beyond the investment itself was the opportunity to help preserve an iconic Seattle business and the culture it represented. It’s these small to mid-sized companies with unique visions and customer experiences that can thrive in a new era of retail post pandemic.”