Inside Baxter of California

A Few More Questions with Sales Director Michael Donovan  

  • April 16, 2012 |
  • EDC

Following up on our interview last week with Sales Director Michael Donovan (Baxter Method Shaves at Haberdash EDC), we had a few more questions we wanted to share with you all, including further insight into Baxter’s design-focused side, why they’re mostly made in the U.S., and what’s coming up next at Baxter. But first, a little more on Michael Donovan:

Before he landed at Baxter of California, Michael Donovan spent years in the apparel and lifestyle world. He went from being an assistant buyer at a lifestyle shop in Portland to working his way through the denim and apparel world in L.A., on the wholesale side. “Bringing that to Baxter has been quite rewarding, because I can see both sides,” says Michael, “I’ve been a buyer. It’s been really cool to be able to bring this piece of the puzzle to the men’s lifestyle world.”

He started at Baxter five years ago. “When I joined the team, one of our goals was to really trail-blaze this men’s lifestyle category, to place the brand, and seek out retail partners out in non-traditional channels of distribution for men’s grooming. We kind of broke the mold – we’re not a beauty brand. We weren’t going after the big commercial chains of the world, we were [and are] going after shops like Haberdash. It’s been a very patient and deliberate process, saying ‘No’ more than you’re saying ‘Yes’, but it’s been quite rewarding in the long run.”

About Baxter’s Über-Clean Packaging

Long before you lather up with Baxter’s Super Close Shave Formula or feel the soothing tingle of their After Shave Balm, you might notice Baxter of California’s signature blue-black-and-white, über-clean packaging.

In an interview with A Continuous Lean, the company’s president, Jean-Pierre Mastey, said the following of their package design: “Design is important to me and to the brand, actually very important… Overall when given the choice we feel that the Baxter guy appreciates good design.”

So, when we were interviewing Michael Donovan, we commented on the clean, understated design of their products—and how nice they look on our apothecary shelves. ”I’m so glad that resonates with you, because we’re kind of design-crazy over here,” says Michael. “What goes into the jars, the bottles, the tubes—that’s most important. But if it doesn’t have that shelf pop…” Even better, theirs is the kind of product that you can understand as soon as you pick it up off the shelf. “You don’t need somebody to hold your hand and guide you through every product,” says Michael. “Guys want something that says what it’s going to do and does what it says. And if we didn’t deliver on that, we wouldn’t be in business going on 50 years.”

“It’s also about guys being comfortable when purchasing these types of products. We’re all guys here that aren’t going to walk up to a cosmetics counter at your local department store,” says Michael. “We want to discover these types of products in an environment that we’re stoked to be a part of, like Haberdash. You go in there and almost exhale, ‘I’ve found my spot.’ It’s where we would want to shop and purchase these products. I wish it was in my neighborhood. It’d be my hangout spot to go in and shoot the shit with these guys.”

Why They’re Mostly Made in the U.S.

“We manufacture everything that goes in the tube, bottle, box, or jar within about thirty miles of downtown Los Angeles,” says Michael. “All of our formulations are proprietary, some of them going back 4 1/2 decades. Of course, they’ve been a bit modernized over the years.” And if it’s not made in California, it’s made in the U.S.—or they have a very good reason for why it’s not made in the U.S.

So, let’s say they can’t get something made stateside, like some of their shaving implements, according to Michael: “Our badger hair shave brushes and double-edged safety brushes, for example, are things you cannot get made at a high level of quality here in the United States anymore. So, we go to the steel region in Germany (Solingen) where they’ve been doing it right for generations.” They ran into a similar situation with their glass jars, but found the high level of execution they were searching for in Italy. Simply put, “If we can’t get it made here, we find out who does it best, and we go there.” And yet, even with those few components being sourced overseas, Michael estimates about 90-95% of what they sell is  made here in the U.S.

What’s Next for Baxter

Any sneak peeks into the future? “I would say, look out for more unexpected collaborations and products in the near future. We’re not a brand that’s coming out with something new every month. We’re not editorially driven, we’re product-driven. You’ll see in the next couple weeks something major that we’ve been working on for about two years. It’s a component of our brand that customers have been asking for for many years and we’re finally satisfied with what we’ve put together, and it’s a very meaningful product. We like to provide those essentials, those products that have a reason to be, but also the unexpected.” Learn more…

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