Sure, Mission Street has plenty of hair salons, but have you ever been to a “grooming club”? That’s the idea behind The Refinery, now open on Mission Street near 22nd: Not really a barbershop, not really just a place to get your hair cut, but a place to be thoroughly groomed.
It’s not a barber shop because DiCaro is not a barber (he doesn’t offer shaves using a straight razor), and because he shies away from being too gender-specific. Anyone can have short hair, and that is what he grooms.
“I want you to come in and feel like you got groomed and pampered,” he said.
Tony DiCaro, a cosmetologist from Atlanta, opened a studio in the ActivSpace building on Treat Street three years ago. He found himself quickly and profoundly booked solid and decided he needed to expand. He discovered the space at 2589 Mission Street, and immediately felt a connection.
“There is never a dull moment on Mission Street. It feels very authentic to San Francisco and has the hustle and bustle feel that drew me to this city in the first place,” he wrote.
He also wanted to make the space really his own – and pulled out all the stops. DiCaro, it turns out, is also a fairly accomplished woodworker, and built all the cabinetry and countertops by hand (with some help from his carpenter father).
The resulting aesthetic is rich with lots of highly polished dark wood, and heavy, luxurious accoutrements like an antler chandelier.
DiCaro describes it as “posh and unassuming, never pretentious, always comfortable and welcoming.”
After more success than he could handle at his smaller shop, DiCaro opted for a bigger space – and company. Six chairs are available inside The Refinery, and DiCaro is already finding more groomers to serve customers. His own workday, beginning between 9 and 10 a.m., often stretches past 8 p.m. or to 9 p.m.
The experience itself is less about luxury and more about the person wielding the clippers.
“The other day I had a guy see me, I cut his hair in hair school. I was honored that he tracked me down and wanted to see my shop.”
In fact, plenty of transplants from Atlanta have reconnected with DiCaro in his adopted San Francisco – the owner of local shop Schatzi provided some of the other eclectic artifacts that adorn the grooming club (like a skateboard with Pabst Blue Ribbon logos and a mermaid figurehead.)
One recent client, San Francisco teacher Ben Dorey, is also a figure from DiCaro’s past, having lived within a few blocks of him in Atlanta.
“It’s just a great experience. Tony is a great conversationalist with just about anybody,” Dorey says.
In his case, a grooming session is an opportunity to kick back – Dorey doesn’t drink, except a little at weddings and at appointments with DiCaro.
“It’s sort of like my version of a spa day,” he said. “It’s an hour of relaxation where I talk about whatever I want to talk about and I’m pampered and well cared for.”
“To get groomed can be more than getting your hair cut,” DiCaro said.
2589 Mission St