Kay Gempesaw: A woman in the man's world

Kay Gempesaw, the woman in the man's world. "In the next 20 years, I see Rocky’s as strengthening its hold as a local homegrown Mindanawon brand"

Behind every successful man is a woman. Perhaps this holds true with Rocky’s Barbershop, the first barbershop to open in a mall in Davao City 20 years ago in 1996.

Rocky’s was the brainchild of Tom Gempesaw, who wanted to make to offer men’s grooming in a convenient environment. In the right shoes, so to speak, “Where would the most convenient location for me to get a haircut than the mall,” said Tom.

Victoria Plaza, the first mall in the city, was the site of the first Rocky’s, the first barbershop in a mall.

Twenty years after, the “barbero ng tunay na lalaki” grew with the city.

With each mall rising Rocky’s was there—SM Lanang Premier, SM City Davao, Abreeza Mall and Gaisano Mall in Davao. They even ventured to the neighboring regions, Centrio Ayala Mall and SM City in Cagayan de Oro City.

Behind the scene, there is this woman who has been the principal support of the business—Kay Gempesaw.


Kay Gemepesaw’s joined the Rocky’s Barbershop team in 2013 as full time Marketing & Customer Service Coordinator

Even before the plan came to be, Kay was excited for the man he was dating, “He would share with me the results of the market study he made on whether a barbershop in a mall would work as well as his plans for the barbershop.”

Tom and Kay eventually tied the knot and the marriage bore them two kids. Kay took the role of the wife and mother and in between, she was a baker, painter, and Tom’s unofficial consultant.

“I did not really participate in the business back then except to support Tom in his endeavors and act as sounding board to his plans. I was doing my own thing back then so we’re both busy doing different things.”

In 2013, she gave up her baking business to take an active role in Rocky’s as Marketing and Customer Service Coordinator.

”We were about to celebrate 20 years and he needed help in planning the promotions and events celebrating this milestone. He was also planning to expand outside Davao City so he wanted someone to handle the marketing, customer service as well as revamping the brand.”

“Tom is always open and supportive to new ideas. He is very proactive and forward thinking when it comes to his vision of where Rocky’s is headed.”

“Our main focus as a company is the customer’s comfort and satisfaction. With this in mind, I was able to implement a more personalized service between barbers and clients. Each of the barber now sport a name tag for easy recognition and name recall. We gave the barbers personal calling cards so the clients can book their suki barber and cut on their waiting time.”

Customer service starts with a warm welcome. The receptionists are very knowledgeable in all of barbershop’s services


The Rocky’s receiving line, the receptionists, are also regularly trained on customer service and business etiquette, and Kay regularly visits all the branches to make sure that customer comfort is being managed by our staff daily.

Extending customer service and comfort in all the Rocky’s branches, TVs were installed and reading materials are always updated to entertain clients in a homey and comfortable reception area. “They can even enjoy complimentary coffee and tea, and Wi-Fi.”


Perks at Rocky’s Kay introduced- complimentary coofee, tee & wi-fi


Kay spearheaded the introduction of new lines of service to accommodate the needs of the growing diverse clientele of the barbershop.

Last year, the hair spa and a wider range of hair dye colors were added to the men’s grooming menu. Under the supervision of professionals, the barbers were trained on product knowledge and application.

“We’re making Rocky’s a one stop place for men’s grooming needs.”


The Hair Spa was introduced in 2015 & the reception was excellent


“On the marketing aspect of my job, I set up online presence with Facebook and Instagram; offered Gift Certificates that clients can purchase to give to their friends, which promotes Rocky’s as well; and launched the Rocky’s Loyalty Card, which is a way for us to give back to our loyal customers as well as strengthen our brand.”

Kay was also the brainchild of the 20th Anniversary promotions. The regular press releases beat the drum on the coming celebration.

On 2016, Rocky’s 20th birthday, the first Rocky’s calendar was released. Entitled the Traditions, it featured the prominent Father and Sons in Davao who have become loyal clients.


Traditions, the 20th anniversary calendar of Rocky's Barbershop


“We are showcasing how Rocky’s men’s grooming are being passed from one generation to the next. It has become a tradition for our clients just as it is a tradition for Rocky’s to extend good service.”


Featured in the Rocky’s 2016 Traditions calendar are (top, L-R) Jimmy & Javi Javier for January; Elfred & Nikko Batalla for February; (bottom, L-R) Bok Mata with Abu & Thirdy for March; and Yong Sebastian with Nikko & Franco for April.

(top, L-R) Toto & Timmy de Jesus for May; Dennis & Enzo Salvador for June; (bottom, L-R) Vince & Lucas Arcenas for July; and Toto & Jiggy de Jesus for August.


(Top, L-R) Philip Garcia with Luis & Marco for September; Louie & Christian Gahol for October; (bottom, L-R) Al Ryan & Alwin Alejandre; and Bobby Antepuesto with Andy, Lance
& Martin.


With the new services, what was the client’s reception then and now?

“The client’s reception has definitely been positive. I am happy to say that although some of our customers try new barbershops opening in the city, they still come back to Rocky’s. The usual feedback we get is that at Rocky’s they feel like a king! Which is of course what we aim for.”

Kay doesn’t take credit for any of the additions that made Rocky’s an exciting stop for men’s grooming. She admits that the success of Rocky’s comes from the fact that everyone in Rocky’s is working like one big family.

“It’s definitely a team effort. From the management to the barbers and cashiers, we all work as one unit and our goal is to make our customers feel like they are part of that family. I always consult with all the members of the team whenever I plan for promotions or additional services because I value their inputs. The fact that our Rocky’s family has been very supportive of my contributions is a big part in making my role in this company successful.” 

As to the coming years, Kay shared that Rocky’s have more plans in line with strengthening the brand.

“What I am most excited about is our plan to give back to the community. We have several plans regarding this and we are in the consultation phase.”

“In the next 20 years, I see Rocky’s as strengthening its hold as a local homegrown Mindanawon brand. We have started expanding in key places in Mindanao and So far the reception has been good. I also see Rocky’s strengthening its legacy of being the place for men’s grooming that offers the best quality barbers whose work ethics are based on traditional values.”

Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com. For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit www.ofapplesandlemons.com & www.jeepneyjinggoy.com

also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.