Eric Massey and Jimmy Haddox have been holding down hair on South Congress for 17 successful years, watching businesses come and go and the economy wax and wane.
In July, 2016, in the midst of Austin’s current boom, it came as an inevitable surprise that Wet’s prime SOCO location two blocks from the river had been sold, with six months to be out.
“They talk about environments in business. Some you control, some you don’t.”
Eric’s business mentality revolves around people, not profit, and it shows through his hospitable demeanor. He has known about Almost Real Things since before it was a real thing and is always curious to see how business is doing, always willing to share some great advice. This time we chatted in the front garden of their beautiful new space just seven blocks down from the rubble that was once their home.
“You can’t expect things to stay the same.” When they moved onto SOCO they knew money was coming to clean up the area (that still had a large prostitution problem). Even so, they didn’t anticipate the explosion of commerce. They began meeting people who had seen their sign as they were passing through and the press took notice as well, documenting the transition and landing Wet spots on 7 reality shows including Fox’s Ambush Makeover. They lived through the rush, through the settling and now the cycle has begun again.
“You can’t expect things to stay the same.”
Moving is always difficult but at Wet they’re all about the silver linings. “Who we are and why we started was to be known as the best of the eclectic culture in Austin. That area had changed so much that we wanted to get back to our roots, and we can here—there’s a real neighborhood feel with a school across the street and a bar next door.” Their new space has gorgeous front, back and side yards making it easier to host events at their leisure.
Right from the start they wanted to be part of the larger creative scene in Austin, curating a gallery on the salon walls and hosting regular openings. “It was a way to help local artists and market the salon, even before First Thursdays. You need to think of anything you can do outside of your business hours to cross markets. And even inside business hours. People visit the salon for the art but now they know the Wet name. It’s a win-win.”
They attribute their continued success to this community minded approach, focusing on long-term relationships. “Life’s not a sprint, man. It’s a marathon. You might not see the benefits in your first year, but wait until your fifth, tenth, fifteenth year.” Great relationships helped their move go smoothly, and although half of their staff needed to seek employment at another salon due to new space constraints, their clients have been supportive.
“When you work in the business you own for such a long time, it is difficult to be inventive because you find routines. But you look to your staff and the younger stylists to inspire you. Have an open mind. Keep it fresh. And always stay thankful that we get to do what we love!”
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