The Salty Dog Barber Shave isn’t named after the bluegrass song.
It’s not named after the drink. It’s named after the New London bar that closed after the bartender was murdered in 1986, that always had an air of mystery to it.
Amy Rubin, who opened the Salty Dog in downtown Mystic last April, remembered the name and liked it. Now tourists stop and take pictures next to the sign.
In an economy where other businesses are struggling and even closing, Rubin has captured a niche in the market with such success that less than a year after opening, she’s expanding.
Here’s what she does: She keeps the place decorated with a rustic, country theme, and in addition to offering haircuts, shoe shines and warm shaves with a straight-edge razor, she hosts parties of groomsmen spiffing up for weddings.
She brings in her barbers, lets the guys hang out at the place for two hours and get their shaves, hair cuts and shoe shines, and then leave with the groom for the big event.
Last summer, she booked more than 20 wedding parties – not including the fellows who showed up unannounced – and already has them booking for June.
“It’s easy to see what the needs are once you’re in it,” she said.
She’s now expanding by opening a women’s spa behind the Salty Dog called the “Sassy Cat Spa Mystic”, where she plans to offer manicures, pedicures, massage and body waxing. Her goal is to officially open the Sassy Cat May 1.
Her idea is to make the business a destination for couples: She gets a manicure and massage; he gets a hot shave and a haircut, “they feel amazing, and they go out on the town somewhere,” Rubin said.
Rubin is the daughter of an entrepreneur.
Her mother, Dianne Rubin, owns “Thin’s In”, a health and fitness business in Waterford that supports people working to maintain a healthy weight.
Amy Rubin said she knew she wanted a business, but she wasn’t sure what kind. She graduated from Fishers Island High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Bentley University in Massachusetts, then went to hairdressing school.
Before opening the Salty Dog, she owned Amy’s Barber Shop in Franklin for seven years and lived on a farm in Lebanon. She sold the farm and the barber shop to open the Salty Dog and be closer to family.
She said she works hard to make people happy, and believes this is key to her success. She also keeps prices reasonable; a haircut is $16.
“We want them to feel like they got way more for their money than they ever thought they would,” she said. The shop also has six parking spaces in the back, an asset at a premium in downtown.
And she spices it up. She throws a party every time there’s a full moon. Fifty customers showed up for the gathering Jan. 27, where she cooked and brought in live music, including a banjo player.
The business is open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. and closed Sundays now. By summer, it’ll be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., seven days a week.
“We’re here to make people feel good,” she said. “So when they leave, they’re smiling. And they tell all their friends.”