The cold, deadly hand of the recession came down hard on another one of Portland's most beloved institutions last week, when Dirty Little Secret Salon and Spa announced it would be closed as of February 1. Originally located in the Hollywood District near Tigerlily Tattoo, many Portlanders were first introduced to the salon when it moved next door to Dunes in 2002. Its proximity to the popular club known for sweaty, crowded dance nights and amazing secret shows no doubt helped catapult Dirty Little Secret into the go-to hair salon for many local scenesters. Hip but not high end, partners Lucynda Beth Thompson and Amie Zimmerman worked hard to create an atmosphere and work environment that they enjoyed and that was reflective of their personalities, occasionally hosting fashion shows and other events and parties.
Several years ago they expanded DLS to include a roomy lounge area with private rooms for massages and facials, a light therapy room, as well as adding nail and waxing services to their menu. Although the new arm of the business was never very profitable, it managed to sustain itself for a few years, until the economic evils of 2008 began to bear down with increasing insistence.
"We definitely bit off more than we could chew," Zimmerman admits, "and we overestimated the appeal of a one-stop shop for services, thinking we had a built-in clientele."
As the economy worsened, Zimmerman said she noticed that while people who have a lot of money to spend continue to spend it in higher-end salons, the DLS customer began foregoing less necessary-seeming procedures like facials and pedicures. Even on the salon end, devoted clients didn't stop coming in, but they spaced trims and colorings out longer. After getting three months behind on rent and several failed attempts to renegotiate arrangements with their landlord, DLS finally had to call it good.
On the upside, Zimmerman and Thompson have both moved in to Wack Salon (800 E Burnside), in the Jupiter Hotel/Doug Fir complex, once again in close proximity to one of Portland's cultural hotspots, with the added bonus of hotel guests needing a style or trim on the go. They've also posted the new locations and contact numbers for all the other DLS stylists on the website's home page (dirtylittlesecretsalon.com).
Now DLS is having a last hurrah/liquidation sale, with chairs, light fixtures, vanities, salon and hair equipment, robes, towels, shelving, and more. A casual, BYOB, and make-your-best-offer affair, it's a last chance to say goodbye and grab a souvenir. Until next time, you know where to find them. (DLS farewell open house and sale, Dirty Little Secret, 1909 NE MLK, Sun Feb 8, noon-6 pm)