After rising out of my barber chair at Quintana’s Barber and Dream Spa (2200 S. Taylor Rd., 216.321.7889) in Cleveland Heights I climbed a short flight of stairs and arrived at a dark-stained bookcase. I was instructed to crack the cover of a book by a Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende, which revealed a square metal button. After depressing the button, the bookshelf swiveled inward, exposing a handsome speakeasy that just about blew my mind.
Since opening back in 2003, Quintana’s Barbershop has been more than just another place where employees trim the hairs and beards off appreciative customers. It has evolved into a true neighborhood asset, the kind of place where last night’s shenanigans are rehashed, civic issues are discussed, and lasting friendships are forged. It’s a special place, as any of its longtime customers can attest.
After purchasing an adjacent building, renovating it, and relocating the second-floor spa services portion of the business, owners Alex and Dawn Quintana found themselves with some open space. Inspired by places like the Blind Barber in New York, they decided to transform that space into a small speakeasy for their clientele.
“I went to New York with some girlfriends and we went to this old school barbershop with like two chairs,” explains Dawn. “You walk through this door and it’s like you’re in the 1920s Prohibition. We were just wowed.”
The snug space is warm and woodsy, with dark-stained wall panels, crown molding, finely upholstered furniture and plush red velvet black-out drapes. A small bar and back bar is stocked with high-end bourbon, scotch and aperitifs. On the walls, old photos of Dawn and Alex’s parents and grandparents are rooted in stories just begging to be told.
Quintana’s is the first barbershop in the state that carries its own liquor license, Alex explains, with the Ohio State Barber Board making an exception based on due diligence. At a max capacity of just 25 guests, the speakeasy is not designed to be another neighborhood bar.
“We look at this as a benefit to our customers,” says Dawn.
“The way we explain it is there’s a cover charge, and that cover charge is that you get a service with us,” adds Alex. “That helps make sure that our employees, some of whom have been with us for 16 years, stay gainfully employed.”
It’s the perfect arrangement, say, for a group of groomsmen to come in, get haircuts and straight-razor shaves, and then head upstairs for some bourbon cocktails. Initially, the drinks were to be limited to straightforward neat and rocks pours, but then Adam Acuff, an LA-based bartender looking to move back to Northeast Ohio, spotted the Craigslist ad.
“It’s kind of a great fit,” notes Acuff, who helped open Far Bar in LA. “I like that it’s small, I like that it’s unique, I like that it’s done right, and you can tell that Alex is passionate about it. I’ve opened speakeasies before but I’ve never opened one above a barbershop.”
A full bar means that a guest can order everything from an aperitif to an old fashioned with the bourbon of his or her choosing. Prices start at $10 and climb based on the rarity and cost of the booze. The liquor license extends out the front door and onto the front porch, meaning that clients can enjoy that cocktail alongside a cigar alfresco.
Soon, annual memberships will be offered which nets the owner a menu of barber and spa services, use of the space for private parties, unrestricted access to the speakeasy, and permission to bring along a friend.
“This isn’t the kind of bar that people will come to every weekend,” says Alex. “It’s the bar they will come to every four to six weeks and have a drink.”
“At the end of the day we’re still a barbershop, and that’s where we’ve made our business.”