From haircuts to "hair of the dog"
In the onslaught of gifts celebrating his new citizenship status, one of Quintana's barbershop customers gave him two bottles of bourbon: Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace. “I held onto them for nine months until opening them,” says Quintana. “I wasn’t into whiskey.” One night, he had a friend over and found himself with nothing to drink but the bourbon bottles. “I said, ‘Well, I’ll have one.’” He laughs. “We ended up killing three-fourths of the bottle.”
Quintana’s taste in booze would never be the same.
Before it became The Speakeasy, the space above the barbershop was home to Dawn’s spa. The upstairs-downstairs dynamic worked well for a time, but business was “bursting at the seams,” so they decided to expand. A customer gave a tip on a building going up for sale right next door to the shop, in 2015, which became the new home for Dawn’s spa. It was a great move, but now the barbershop had an empty floor above it -- what to do with that unused space?
Dawn already had an idea: Years earlier on a trip to New York, she visited a number of speakeasy-style bars, and the one that stood out the most was The Blind Barber, a cocktail bar/barbershop combo.
“So Dawn suggested we build a bar,” says Quintana. He shrugs. “Who am I to say no to my wife?”
The Speakeasy, of course, became a citywide sensation in short order, and Quintana's thrilled by its undeniable success. “It’s allowed us to become part of a community,” he says. “Porco, Society... being mentioned in the same paragraph as them is humbling.”
Alex Quintana’s life forms the ideal version of the immigrant success story, but he hasn’t forgotten the turmoil that brought him here. “This is what a refugee family looks like forty years later,” he says. “We employ” (22 people, at last count). “We’re engaged. We have this gratitude.’”
At his barber station, Quintana has a print of a quote from George Burns: “Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.” While he may not know how to run the country, Alex Quintana does know how to run a barbershop (and now, a bar) -- and honestly, that’s not a bad start.