New London - Whatever its name might suggest, Bravado, the new "Old School Barbershop" at 190 State St., is anything but stodgy.
Sure, it features some vintage amenities - shoe shines, hot lather shaves and warm-towel face wraps. But if a customer wants a particular design shaved into the side of his head, a Bravado barber can do that, too.
It's called hair tattooing.
And customers needn't worry that they might have to spend half the day leafing through magazines while waiting for their turn in a barber's chair. Bravado takes appointments. Encourages them. Encourages customers to make them by smartphone app.
"It's an 'old school barbershop' with a modern twist," said Kiesha Murphy, Bravado's co-owner. "We're staying true to the old-time barbershop services but we want to be something more. We want to be a cut above."
Intent on capturing "an authentic city vibe," Murphy and her partner, Angela Peters, visited New York City and went online to research the latest in metropolitan barbershops. On the first ground floor of the Crocker House, Bravado's minimalist, high-ceiling décor features hardwood flooring, thick-cushioned black chairs and flat-screen TVs. The shop's front wall - glass from floor to ceiling - frames City Hall, which stands across State Street.
"We're not done decorating," Murphy said.
The Bravado partners plan to hang photographs of their six barbers in action as well as memorabilia from the Crocker House, the historic building that houses Bravado and other commercial tenants, including Murphy's own Spoiled Salon Studio, which she opened about six years ago.
Murphy and Peters, whose paths had crossed while they were working at salons in the area, including the Grand Salon at Foxwoods Resort Casino, had separately thought about starting new businesses. But when the Bravado space became available - it had most recently housed Tse Tse Gallery - their separate visions came into focus. They would collaborate.
Murphy continues to work at Spoiled and Peters as a cocktail waitress at Foxwoods.
Together, they oversee Bravado and the Bravado Barbering Academy, where they serve as instructors. The academy, which operates at the State Street location, is the only private, state-certified school of barbering in southeastern Connecticut.
In researching the Bravado site, Murphy said she learned it has long been linked to haircutting. The Crocker House, built in 1873, housed a barbershop there from about 1890, if not earlier, until 1974, when the Crocker House Barber Shop closed.
At one time, John Eno, an early 20th century proprietor, operated 22 barber's chairs.
"We've had some customers come in who remember the old barbershop here, and we've given some children their first haircut," Murphy said. "... New London deserves a place like this."