GIBS Grooming: What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been

For GIBS Grooming chief executive officer Brian ‘Gib’ Long, it’s been a long, strange trip to the grooming industry. Entrepreneurial in nature, he has instinctively capitalized on voracious consumer demand throughout his career. And there are no more voracious consumers than hungry Deadheads outside of Grateful Dead concerts, where a teenage Long made enough hawking veggie burritos and tie-dye T-shirts to support himself on the road following the band for some six years.

Brian Long Gibs Grooming

Retired from the tour and settled in Colorado, where he could snowboard at will, New York native Long figured he’d bring a taste of his hometown to Rocky Mountain country. He opened Gib’s Bagels and helmed it for 15 years. Even while he was running the bagel operation, he dabbled in side projects. Long established a juice bar and brokered private jets. “I love business. I like the deal. I like developing ideas. I think I was born that way,” he says.

Long’s entrée into beauty came about circuitously through his passion for fly fishing. He sensed an opportunity upon noticing girls patronizing Gib’s Bagels were decorating their hair with the same feathers used to tie flies to catch fish. He launched to profit from the trend. After that, Long started Surprisingly, the beauty business suited him. “Typically, guys like me and Mike [Howland, Long’s partner in GIBS Grooming] are not in the beauty industry. That’s part of our story that people love. "We are out of the box,” he says.

As Long was thinking about what to do next, Tom Vaught, a voiceover artist and Long’s friend from his Grateful Dead days, introduced him to the concept of beard oil at the International Beauty Show in New York. “He has a big beard, and he was walking the show and put some oil treatments in his beard. He said, ‘I really think you need to try this.’ I put some oils in my beard, and it felt good. He’s like, ‘You should make a beard oil.’ So, I looked into it,” recounts Long.

Long discovered beards were gaining in popularity. Traditionally the province of the outdoorsy “Duck Dynasty” types, hipsters and professional athletes were also sporting beards. If he could create great beard oil, there’d be a lot of men to sell it to. “There was a whole beard movement coincidentally happening while the idea from my friend Tom came about. It seemed like a good fit. Men were putting more energy into making their beards look cool,” says Long.

At the beginning of last year, Long turned to Donna Federici, owner of beauty consultancy Intawishin and former executive vice president of sales and marketing at Sexy Hair Concepts, to help transform the beard oil idea into a brand. She encouraged Long to call the brand GIBS Grooming. Gib is Long’s nickname. “It comes from my brother. When I was growing up in New York, everyone had a nickname. Mine was just Gib. I wish I had a better story, but I don’t,” says Long. In the brand, GIBS stands for guys into beard stuff.
Along with Federici, Long tapped Greg Rubin, CEO and owner of beauty product manufacturer Garcoa Industries, and Mike Nave, a consultant and editor of the Beauty Industry Report, to assist in the formulation of the beard oil. In June of last year, GIBS Grooming released its beard oils. They contain a blend of sunflower, olive and Argan oils, and are available in three masculine scents: VooDoo Prince, Bush Master and Manscaper, which has an earthy, yet sweet pipe tobacco smell that’s Long’s favorite.

“For somebody that has a beard, their biggest fear is residue, and the absorption has been perfect. We handpick the oils, and they are perfectly blended in ratios that make a superior product,” says Long. “Other oils don’t absorb as well. They leave a residue.”

The oils have been a hit. “In one year, we have done what usually takes people three or four. I couldn’t be happier,” reports Long. GIBS Grooming will be adding to its product repertoire soon with Whisker Wash Beard and Face Wash, and Sharp Dressed Mane Shave Gel. “I definitely want to flesh the brand out, but we never want to lose that cool edge,” says Long.

GIBS Grooming is not as far removed from Long’s Grateful Dead roots as it would seem. “I like the [beauty trade] shows. I like being on the road. It reminds me of being on the Dead tour. You see the same people from show to show, and there’s camaraderie. Tom [Vaught] was my partner in crime when we were on the Dead tour. He said, ‘I thought the dead tour was bizarre, but this is really far out.’” There is one big difference: Long’s beard is much better maintained.

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