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Decant? Decan! Chatting with Garry Johnson of Garry’s Sample Shop

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Garry Johnson, of Garry’s Sample Shop.

If you’re new to wet shaving – or if you’re a veteran of the craft, you’ve probably heard of Garry Johnson, the man behind Garry’s Sample Shop. That’s because through, widely considered the top wet shaving forum, Johnson has made it easy for newbies and connoisseurs alike to sample soaps, creams, colognes and more.
We caught up with Johnson this week.Sharpologist: How did you get into the decant business?
Johnson: I was trying to get into wet shaving to save some money (ha ha) and quickly realized that I wanted to try just about everything that I read about on the wet shaving forums.  I do have a practical side though that reminded me to not order too many products as I would never get through them, not to mention the cost for everything that I wanted would be many thousands of dollars.  I started looking around online and found that samples of most wet shaving products were non-existent.  I decided it would be my “calling” to be the guy people could go to for samples of shaving soap, shaving cream, aftershave and EdT.
Sharpologist : Do you stock stuff that you don’t use in your personal collection?
Johnson: Absolutely yes!  One of the great benefits of selling samples is that I get to try everything I want, and it’s really allowed me to narrow down my personal favorites considerably.  Most of the shaving cream and shaving soap samples are all products I use regularly but a good portion of the aftershave and EdT samples I sell are not products that I personally enjoy.
Sharpologist: Is the business lucrative? How do you set pricing?
Johnson: It used to be a little more lucrative for me than it is now but that’s only because I have had to hire my girlfriend’s son to be my assistant in order to keep up with the ever growing number of orders.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but I’m sure I will have to readjust the pricing at some point in order to make everything worth my time.
Sharpologist: Your stock leans toward shaving stuff, but you also have some fragrances. How do you decide what to buy?
Johnson: The fragrance side of my sample shop has always been an incredibly small part of my overall sales, and the process of making a fragrance decant is tedious to say the least.  I have shied away from fragrances considerably in the last few months but may reconsider if I can come up with a better method.  I try to keep an eye and an ear on the wet shaving forums and stock what are considered the “classics” (Pinaud, Cella, MWF, Tabac, the 3 T’s, etc.) along with some high end or expensive products (Penhaligons, Martin de Candre, Acqua di Parma, etc.) and any highly anticipated new products are also top of the list for me to stock.
Sharpologist: Is this a full-time job? If not, what is your real job?
Johnson: No, this is just a part-time, after-work hobby for me at this point.  I work in Treasury Management Sales for a mid size bank in Downtown Los Angeles.
Sharpologist: Where would you like to take the business eventually? Do you hope to grow larger?
Johnson: I really want to focus on the guy who is just getting into wet shaving and think I have done a pretty good job so far with my Vintage Gillette Starter Kit.  I would really like to expand on this idea in the next few months with some more customization options that I think will be very appealing.  I’ve been running my sample shop for about two and a half years so far and have seen the business almost double each year!  I am absolutely interested in continued growth but will have to get creative in order to keep up for sure!
Sharpologist: How do you feel about the support from the wetshaving community?
Johnson: What can I say?  The support from the wet shaving community has been absolutely amazing and has inspired me to keep on keeping on!  Not a day goes by that I don’t get thanked for offering this service to the community from both new and repeat customers alike.

Andy Tarnoff

Andy Tarnoff

2 thoughts on “Decant? Decan! Chatting with Garry Johnson of Garry’s Sample Shop”

  1. Garry IS awesome. I really can’t say enough about Garry’s efforts and the professional manner and care that goes into his decants and his samples. Even though I already had several nice double edged razors, I took advantage of Garry’s “Starter Kit” offer and ended up a very nice old Gillette TTO that still has a proud spot in my shaving lineup. Any one I meet who is willing to listen and show interest in my philosophical waxing on traditional shaving gets sent to Garry.
    Keep it up man, we need you.

  2. Garry’s awesome..
    Currently have quite a few samples from him, some that I have yet to try. He even sent me a sample of the brand new TOBS Grapefruit Cream. Really an awesome resource for trying a lot of stuff before buying the full-size version. Curious how the companies who make the stuff feel about him selling decands/samples…

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