ROCKLAND — The soon to be launched Dark Harbor Barber Company bears a name designed to intrigue the Midcoast community, according to its owner Sam Weldon.
The name behind the new barbershop, slated to open Nov. 16 on Union Street in Rockland, also holds sentimental value to Weldon (one of his favorite novels is Stuart Woods’ Dark Harbor) and is a nod to beautiful Islesboro village bearing the name.
Weldon is returning to the Midcoast with the launch of his barbershop after he spent several years after high school in Southern Maine, where he developed his passion of working in a barbershop.
At 18, Weldon moved to Southern Maine, a decision he called conflicting but necessary for his aspirations and future success.
“At the time, didn't see a lot of economic opportunity for myself in a small town,” he said.
After earning his degree, he began to work in the medical field but found himself yearning a different career path after a few years in the industry.
Eager to explore a new career, he began picking the brain of his barber.
“I kind of fell into barbering after bothering the barber who cut my hair with tons of questions every time I got my haircut,” he said.
After being bombarded with questions over numerous visits, Weldon became an apprentice, which Weldon called “a means to stop my constant questioning.”
“I really fell in love with barbering right away, and I was fortunate enough to be working at one of the busiest and most well known shops in the state,” he said of his time apprenticing at Momentum Barbershop in the Old Port.
His apprenticeship ended 18 months later and he transitioned to working at Goodfellas Barbershop in Westbrook, a shop with a focus on classic men’s barbering and straight razor shaves that taught Weldon the skills and passions needed to run a successful shop.
“I learned to love taking care of clients, building relationships, and helping guys look their best,” Weldon said. “I found that putting your all into something you love matters so much more than the money you make.”
Weldon began contemplating opening his own barbershop in 2018 and began picturing how his shop would fit into the Midcoast community.
“The population is there, the demographic, and certainly the need for a truly classic full service men's barbershop,” he said. “I set goals for myself financially and professionally, and just waited for all the pieces of the puzzle to come together. Thankfully, we are a week away from this dream of mine becoming a tangible reality!”
A fan of discovering ways to overcome challenges and curveballs thrown at him, Weldon looks forward to overcoming the challenge of launching a new business amid a global pandemic that has rocked economies around the world and sent business owners scrambling to identify ways to overcome the pandemic.
“I think a lot of people wake up in the morning feeling really comfortable knowing that they have their stability to hold onto,” Weldon said. “I have never thrived in an environment where I feel safe and secure and like I have nothing unknown coming at me around the next corner. I think this shop is my Mt. Everest. My big life challenge is to create a legacy and a reputation in a community I love so much.”
Growing his business at the pace he envisions is his biggest challenge —thanks, in part, to the pandemic.
“Right now, people are scared to come into the community for the goods, services, etc. they are so used to venturing out for,” he said. “I see connecting with the community as a new business and proving to them that their safety and health are our number one priority is paramount. I want people to leave with the best haircut of their life, but also with an unmatched sense of safety and wellbeing. Trust is going to be crucial for the business model to be successful.”
Building those relationships is the most rewarding part of the industry, Weldon noted.
“Being a barber for several years now, I can tell you there is no better feeling than being recognized by a child at your kids soccer game or by a family at the store as ‘their barber,’” he said. “I believe that a barbershop is one of the key pillars of Main Street America, and that real honest connection with the people and families you serve is what keeps you turning the lights on every day!”
Despite some challenges spurred by COVID-19 and its economical impact, Weldon touted this is a great time for those looking to launch a business.
“Right now, there is more prime commercial real estate for rent in the area than at any other time I can remember,” he said. “If someone is thinking about opening a business, now would be an amazing time to secure a location, advertising, etc. The pandemic is a temporary thing and I believe Dark Harbor will thrive during the pandemic and for years after.”
In fact, Weldon, father to a 12-year-old daughter, plans to use launching a business amid a global pandemic as a way to show his young daughter accomplishments happen no matter what outside forces dictate, so long as you believe in yourself and believe your offerings are essential.
“I'd like to imagine a Dark Harbor Belfast, Damariscotta, etc. in the next year or two honestly,” he stated.
Asked to comment on what is going to set his services apart from the local competition, Weldon noted he prefers to let his work do the talking.
“However, I can tell you that when it comes to haircuts, fades, etc. the level of expertise and attention to every detail is going to be absolutely unmatched by anything the community has had to choose from,” he commented. “We will also offer straight razor shaves, neck shaves with hot lather for every client etc. I believe the total package, quality of service, atmosphere of the shop, and the relationships we build with the community will be what sets us worlds above anything the Midcoast has ever seen.”
Dark Harbor’s promise is simple, Weldon noted: your haircut and your experience will be top notch and worth every cent.
“I'll never accept a dime from someone who isn't leaving feeling amazing about the service they received,” he said. “This isn’t my barbershop, it belongs to the people of our community and I want it to always be a place guys and their families are excited to come to!”