Blog : Six years on, Acorn remains a green beacon

By Mary | Mar 5, 2014 | in

acornsalonBy Jim Cavan

Six years ago, Acorn Organic Salon opened with a single mission in mind: to provide customers with a bevy of animal-friendly, sustainable products and services that spoke to the Seacoast region’s ever-greening sensibilities.

Since then, the Dover staple has survived and thrived thanks to a love and loyalty lacking in today’s increasingly impersonal commercial landscape.

Now, Laura McKay and her crew are setting their sites on the next big challenge: a new Sixth Street storefront opened in December – right below a well-traveled natural foods store and a mere stone’s throw from Acorn’s flagship haunt on Central Avenue.

According to Mackay, the impetus for the move was twofold: more space, and greater visibility.

“We saw it as a fresh start,” says Mackay. “At the old location, even though we were right on Central Avenue, we were kind of blocked by the trees. Here, while it’s more residential, we’re right in front of a four-way intersection, so the visibility is even greater. And the fact that we have a space that fit what we were looking for.”

The impact of a more intimate space – economically as well as environmentally – cannot be discounted: According to Mackay, she’s paying hundreds of dollars less per month on electricity. That’s no small thing when you’re trying to run a small business.

“That adds up,” Mackay notes. “That’s money you could be spending on improving your service.”

But there’s an aesthetic advantage to the new space as well: Whereas the old shop featured a layout more in line with that of a typical salon – with chairs and stations unfurling in a straight line to the back of the building – Acorn’s new location, while slightly incongruous, offers a more palpable charm.

Here, the small row of chairs face out towards a sizeable front window and a singular couch – a true recycled treasure, it should be noted – making for a more convivial, conversational vibe.

So far, the consensus from customers has been one of overwhelming support, both for the scaled-down services – “We wanted to stick to what we did best,” Mackay acknowledged – and the more tightly-knit layout.

“A lot of people have said they were surprised, because they ended up liking it better,” Mackay exclaims. “We kind of expected people to tell us they liked it, just because that’s the polite thing to do, but you could tell they were serious when they said it – they really did like it better.”

Of course, the follicle fodder remains largely the same, with the industry’s finest all natural and organic products – none of them tested on animals – giving customers a truly green option where few existed just a few years ago.

Acorn’s green roots cannot be understated: The salon was one of the first handful of businesses to join Green Alliance, a Portsmouth-based “green business union” that now boasts close to 120 locally-owned outfits – everything from restaurants to yoga studios to construction companies.

In fact, Acorn directly incentivizes customers to choose the sustainable option, offering 10% off to Green Alliance consumer members, who enjoy discounts and deals at each of the organization’s member businesses.

Asked to reflect on how far her business has come – surviving the worst economy in two generations, growing to become a Seacoast staple for environmentally friendly options, contexts abound – Mackay was anything but circumspect.

“I think when we first opened, we were so excited because we had this huge array of things we wanted to do,” Mackay recalls. “We were going to do spa services, and then we were going to do pedicures, and it was constantly this attitude of more and more, all the time – because the concept of a green salon was so new. But it eventually became overwhelming.”

Overwhelmed. It’s a word that’s difficult to square with Mackay’s effortless, effervescent personality – the kind of casual conversation you’d expect from a friendly hairdresser, combined with a smile and a sweetness all her own.

Indeed, there’s simple synergy to Acorn’s new space, with Mackay’s warmth and optimism reflecting that of cozy, efficient space, and vice-versa.

Whether the future finds Acorn settling into their new digs for the distant future, franchising locally, or simply scaling up to meet the region’s grown green demand, Mackay can’t say.

One thing she’s certain of, however, is that, for now, she’s finally found a place that feels like home. And when your business is predicated on treating the planet as such, that counts for a lot.

“We want to be who we are and sustain that as best we can,” Mackay says. “We’re just taking it a day at a time and trying to love and respect every second of it, just like we should love and respect the world around us.”

Learn more about Acorn Organic salon with locations in both Dover and Exeter at

To find out more about the Green Alliance or join the green union for discounts at Acorn and 120 other local green businesses, visit