Derwood Willhite is an engaging shopkeeper, make no mistake. His wife, Megan, confirms that customers tend to hang around the store and chew the fat while making a purchase — half an hour isn't unusual. The Willhites own the Vintage Grooming Company, a maker of nationally distributed craft grooming products for men. They specialize in hair care — hair pomade, shaving oil, shaving soap, beard oil, beard balm, and moustache wax.
The idea behind the company goes back to 2010, when Louisiana native Derwood finished his time in the U.S. Army. After years of razor burn, he decided it was time to grow out some serious whiskers.
"When Derwood was first growing out the beard, I bought a couple of the products that were out on the market, but they broke out his skin," says Megan, herself a North Carolinian. She did some research and, with Derwood as her willing guinea pig, formulated a gentle beard oil that worked for her husband and his hirsute biker buddies.
"I didn't want anybody looking greasy or oily," says Megan of her recipes. She uses jojoba oil in most of their products, popular in moisturizers and cosmetics and useful in the dry Colorado climate. For fragrance, she uses essential oils, which she says are gentler on skin than mass-market fragrances, as well milder-smelling and thus less likely to irritate the wearer's sense of smell. Their beard balm adds beeswax, which helps tame curly and unruly beards. Both function as leave-in conditioner.
Megan and Derwood started the company as a web-only store in 2014, after moving to the Springs. In January 2016, they opened a brick-and-mortar location at the corner of Nevada and Austin Bluffs, allowing their local customers to avoid paying shipping.
"With all the veterans around here, we wanted to be a part of the community," says Derwood. And they've been successful there, too. "I started in one space and took over the whole building."
With products like theirs, the Willhites confirm that they educate a lot of their customers. They offer pine sap- and beeswax-based moustache wax to men accustomed to styling their 'staches with everything from hairspray to glue.
"We even had a gentleman come in who used maple syrup to style his moustache," says Megan.
But the biggest assumption they work against is that their products are strictly for people with beards — and big ones at that.
"It's not about the size," says Derwood. "It's not about how big it is. It's about how it makes you who you are."