"We wanted to bring back the feel of the old-time barber shop. There’s a lot of barber shops that just get you in, cut your hair, and then get you out," Goins says. "I remember going to the barber with my father, and there was a line of older gentlemen there. You felt proud to get up in the chair and get your hair cut. You hopped down and you felt like a million bucks. With the modern-day chains, that’s been lost, and we wanted to bring that back."
Pulling off Missouri's first-ever barber shop on wheels was far from easy. First, Petrillo, who had previously owned a landscape architecture business, went back to school to become licensed as a barber. Next, rules about where mobile businesses can park or operate vary throughout the St. Louis region, so the co-owners talked to leaders of multiple municipalities about how they might legally serve clients. Finally, they had to involve the Missouri State Board of Cosmetology and Barber examiners to ensure that Dapper Den was following proper regulations — something they couldn't prove until the shop was built because nobody had attempted it before.
"We would have to completely renovate it and meet all the requirements for an everyday, brick-and-mortar barber shop. After we did that, they would inspect it and tell us whether or not we passed," Goins says. "But then they definitely got it once they could physically come see it, look at it and experience it. They were just blown away."
The result is a mobile business that literally stops traffic. Goins and Petrillo say that police officers recently were so startled by the sight of an Airstream advertising barber services that the patrol halted two lanes of traffic to learn more about Dapper Den.
"They kept inching me over and inching me over, and finally I just stopped in the middle of the road because I didn’t know what to do," Petrillo laughs. "They pulled up and were like, 'Hey this is awesome! What do you do? Can we have some cards? What services do you guys provide?' It was kind of funny."
Dapper Den Grooming makes frequent stops in downtown St. Louis and throughout south county, and Goins and Petrillo expect to offer more locations soon. The Airstream is available for regular services as well as groom's parties and special events. Learn more at dapperdengrooming.com or on Facebook.