As with many good ideas, Portland natives Erik Meyer and Joel Morton hatched their idea for a barbershop over a few beers.
“We saw what it looked like that night. We talked for probably five hours about if we were going to start a business together and if so, what does it look like, what does it feel like?" Meyer says on the notion of combining community and male grooming. “We just built a place where we wanted to spend time and wanted to be a part of.”
In 2015, Cloak & Dagger—the name is a nod to the evening meetings and secrecy behind their plans—opened its doors on North Williams. The dark interior, long sleek bar with rows of hanging bulbs, and wooden stools make it seem more speakeasy than traditional salon. Customers can show up early and play a game of pool or sit at the long wooden table, which boasts Oregon's state seal carved on top, to sip a whiskey and relax.
Two years in, it was deemed Portland's Best Barbershop in Willamette Week’s reader poll.
“I was the first one to ever get a haircut there,” says Alex Rivera, who rushed to Cloak & Dagger to get a haircut before his wedding day. “The grand opening was a day or two days later, and it was an emergency. I called Joel and Joel was like, we don’t have lights on but we’ll make it work, we have our iPhones. It was a huge favor and a huge relief.”
Rivera now considers himself a client for life. "It’s one of those shops where I can go in, sit in any chair, and trust anybody to cut my hair," he says. "I feel confident that they are going to do a good job.”
But it's not about just presentation, say the charismatic 32-year-old co-owners. They also wanted to achieve a sense of family and passion among their nine male and female barbers—many tattoo-clad—and customers. “We have all types of people that come into our shop, and that’s one thing that I think is beautiful," Meyer says. "It’s our goal to make it somewhere where everyone feels accepted. They can feel like they are a part of something cool.”