Diamond in the rough: From crack house to beauty salon

Dawn Dolphin-Wroblewski wanted diamonds for her birthday. Instead, her husband bought her a derelict building, that was once a haven for drugs, prostitution and crime.

“It was pretty nasty when he bought it, so I was not real happy. I asked for diamonds and this is what I got.” Dolphin-Wroblewski said.

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In 1998, her husband purchased the building. It took six months to gut and clean the property, and another six to prepare the salon before opening.

“This place was littered. There was bullet holes across the back wall. It was pretty crazy,” Dolphin-Wroblewski said.

After a year of cleaning and renovations, the salon opened its doors to Spenard in September of 1999. Blue Dolphin salon is full-service complete with tanning services, esthetician work, a nail technician and three hairdressers, including Dolphin-Wroblewski herself and her daughter. Also at the salon is Roxy, Dolphin-Wroblewski’s pet pig that follows her everywhere she goes.

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The former crack house at 3829 Spenard Road had people living in all corners of the property. From tiny cubbies built in the ground floors, to ramshackle huts set up around the building, Dolphin-Wroblewski says at one point there were around 35 people living on the property.

“The cops were getting called here a lot… They actually condemned the building. It wasn’t because the structure was unsafe, it was because the cops were getting called here so many times,” Dolphin-Wroblewski said. “They were renting cubbies out that could barely fit a twin size bed… people were even living [downstairs] with wires hanging down.”

The unsavory history of the building goes beyond the crack house. The building was also home to the Glass Slipper, a 24-hour massage parlor, one of many that lived on Spenard Road in the mid-1900s.

Dolphin-Wroblewski has been doing hair for over 35 years. Blue Dolphin Salon began in Midtown off Northern Lights Boulevard, but with the location on such a busy road and less than adequate parking available, Dolphin-Wroblewski said she wanted to find a better place for her salon. She says that about 50 percent of her clientele walk to the salon from around the neighborhood.

“I like [Spenard] better. I like the people. There’s good people in [Midtown] too, but it’s a lot more neighborhood-orientated, where over there it’s more business orientated,” Dolphin-Wroblewski said.

The salon is located at 3829 Spenard Road and is open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Saturday.

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