On a rainy Wednesday morning in late July, Tina’s Beauty Salon served as a haven for customers needing to dry off and get their hair done.
Business owner Tina Panagiotopoulos, barber Manny Ninos and coworker Liz Reed welcomed familiar faces in and out of the salon located at 5620 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“It’s just like a family,” Panagiotopoulos said. “I still have people, we were all young together. (It’s) still the same people for 30-some years when I first started here.”
One customer needed help opening the front door to make room for her walker. She then walked past the waiting area and plopped into a comfy salon seat.
The familiarity is what has helped Tina’s Beauty Salon call Longboat Key home since 1987.
“This place has been a beauty shop for 44 years,” Panagiotopoulos said. “It was a beauty shop already when I got here.”
However, Longboaters who get their haircut at Tina’s Beauty Salon will need to make new plans. The beloved salon closes its doors for good on Aug. 27.
Starting on Sept. 3, Panagiotopoulos, 70, and Reed plan to bring their services to Design 2000 at 6840 Gulf of Mexico Drive in Whitney Beach Plaza.
“I know it’s going to work out. They’re nice people where (I’m going), but it’s not going to be the same,” Panagiotopoulos said. “It’s not going to be this place.”
Ninos, 82, says he’s retiring.
“I’m going to miss the people,” Ninos said. “I know I’m going to be…I’m not going to say depressed because it doesn’t mean I’m not happy at home.”
Ninos’ longtime customer Bob Gault said he was sad to hear the news.
“When he told me the other day, I was just like, boom. It was like a gut punch,” Gault said. “Boom, he’s leaving.”
Asked why Gault remained loyal to Ninos for years, he mentioned the friendly conversations and the many times he received a “hell of a good haircut.”
“You just feel like you’re going over to a friend’s place to get a haircut,” Gault said.
From Massachusetts to Longboat Key
Panagiotopoulos and Ninos’ friendship began in 1982 when they met in Massachusetts.
“The husbands decided to move to Florida (and) the wives followed,” Panagiotopoulos said.
Panagiotopoulos and Ninos opened a barber shop and salon next door to each other, and Ninos worked his own business until a brief retirement in 2007. When he came back, he began working at Tina’s. The secret to longevity is their kindness.
“I have not met a person I don’t like here,” Panagiotopoulos said. “And, a couple of people, you humor them and you like them. It’s part of the business. There’s always someone. You can humor them and love them.”
“From my point of view, I can say a million times, I can say, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you to the people,’” Ninos said. “I hope (the) first customer, they can follow her wherever she goes. They are good people.”
Panagiotopoulos is also appreciative of her customers.
“It’s more bitter than sweet, of course,” Panagiotopoulos said. “Sweet for being here with all those people. You meet all these people.”
Future plans for the property
Property owner Shawn Hamilton purchased the building at 5620 Gulf of Mexico Drive in January 2019 for $1.125 million.
Hamilton said he had problems renting out the other commercial unit next to Tina’s Beauty Salon.
“It’s so hard, that unit No. 1,” Hamilton said. “I had it leased out for five years to a rental company, and the (town) wouldn’t allow it, permit to occupy it as a rental for golf carts and scooters and so forth, so I lost my tenant.”
Hamilton also said the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the loss of another, Gulf Waters Massage.
Panagiotopoulos said Hamilton told her on May 1 that he wasn’t planning to renew their agreement, providing her a 60-day notice of rent to vacate.
“They’re devastated, by the way,” Panagiotopoulos said of her customers.
Hamilton offered a commercial unit in his 5610 Gulf of Mexico Drive property, but she chose another route.
Hamilton said he accepted Kevin Pass’ offer to a five-year lease for the property at 5620 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“They were interested in the whole building, so basically, I accepted their offer to lease for a new restaurant in that whole building,” Hamilton said. “So, they’re determining right now whether they’re going to refurbish that building or they’re going to replace it with a whole new structure, so that’s still in negotiations right now.”
It’s still too early to say what kind of restaurant concept would go in where Tina’s Beauty Salons stands now. The proposed changes would be subject to approval from the Longboat Key Town Commission and Planning and Zoning Board.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer’s new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. .