By Susan Elise Campbell
In the spring when salon owners were shuttering their shops and self-isolating because of COVID-19, Dakota McGivern and George Solevo were texting back and forth, joking at first, but soon realizing that “Saratoga needed a barbershop” and despite the pandemic, they were going to start one, said McGivern.
A few months later the co-owners had literally transformed the boiler room at Saratoga’s historic Arcade building into a speakeasy-style barbershop that combines old traditions with new products.
The Boiler Room Cut and Shave is located at 376 Broadway, but accessed around the corner by a Phila Street alley.
Said McGivern, a master barber, “We are very busy.”
McGivern had been cutting hair at Patsy’s Barber Shop in Albany for eight years when COVID-19 hit. Solevo was a loyal long-time customer who had come into town every week for a trim by McGivern, and they kept up friendly communications during quarantine.
“I was thinking I would go back to Patsy’s, but George approached me with an idea and I have always wanted a shop of my own,” he said.
The first step was to find a downtown location and the partners settled on the first one they looked at.
“The moment we walked in we knew the space would work with our vision,” he said.
Every decoration in the shop is handmade or hand-selected by McGivern and Solevo. McGivern said the shop has “a unique feel that combines the industrial, historic aspects of the building with touches of cabin and beach house. We wanted people to feel comfortable getting a hair cut and then lingering. Throughout history the barbershop was the community hangout. Today’s shops are more focused on getting people in and out quickly.”
It was revamped with the new norm of social distancing.
In concert with the organic, natural atmosphere of the shop, the partners conceived their own Boiler Made brand of styling products that are crafted and sold right in the shop.
“We grow the ingredients, process them, mix, package and sell our two aftershaves, two pomades and a face mist,” McGivern said. “All the formulas are good for the skin.”
But the business partners did not expect to sell out of product as quickly as they did — twice in two months. McGivern said they would like a better process to make larger quantities.
“We want to branch out to some local stores, as well as the New York City and Boston markets,” McGivern said. “We have been approached by several downtown Saratoga businesses but don’t want to saturate the market for our brand.”
They found in Menges and Curtis Apothecary on Broadway “the right partner” because of that company’s history and reputation for carrying unique body care products. The Boiler Made label will be on their shelves soon, according to McGivern.
The two aftershaves are Cedar and Sage and Vanilla Mint. There is also a rosewater and cucumber face mist made with witch hazel and aloe that is a good pore refresher, McGivern said.
The two hair pomades are for a heavier hold, he said. One is beeswax based and the other natural clay with herbs.
Next year the partners hope to add some other hand-made skin care products to the line, such as an exfoliant, cleansing cream, shampoo and body wash, he said.
McGivern and the staff at The Boiler Room Cut and Shave are “working hard and growing every day. We are young guys who really care about our craft,” he said. “You can feel the passion in the barbershop. It’s a place to hang out and be yourself.”
By Susan Elise Campbell