Tucked away behind the car wash on Canal Road in Orange Beach, there's a tiny room where one woman cuts hair, one client at a time. The walls of her single-chair salon are lined with framed, autographed pictures of singers and songwriters along with antique signs. A guitar sits on a chair, waiting to be played by a musician who might trade a haircut for a couple of songs.
Margaret Carruth — more commonly known as Moonshine Maggie — owns Sea Strands Hair Saloon, a laid-back, no-drama place where she cuts mostly mens' hair.
Maggie loves music and has volunteered at the Frank Brown International Songwriters' Festival in Perdido Key, Pensacola, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores for years, building relationships with musicians along the Gulf Coast.
“I've always loved songwriters because they're the people the songs come from, and they're the ones that have the story to tell,” Maggie said. “Most songwriters I cut for free because they come in and play me songs, and a lot of them don't make a lot of money, so we trade out a couple of songs, and I'll trim them up.”
Previously, Maggie's salon was in the Winn-Dixie shopping center, but she closed it after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. She then moved to Monteagle, Tenn. and opened Moonshine Maggie's Saloon, which became a popular live music venue in the area. Maggie operated the saloon for four years, but she missed the Gulf Coast, so she closed her saloon and came back.
In 2010, Maggie, who strongly believes in natural health and environmental conservation, was devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After becoming an activist and leading two rallies, she realized she needed to get away from the area again.
“There comes a point in time where you've got to get on with your life and leave that behind,” she said. “It was so sad to see all of that happening, and I just had to get away.”
So in 2011, Maggie moved to Uvita, Costa Rica, planning to open a self-sustaining nature camp. She lived alone in the jungle for six weeks with no electricity.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I think it detoxed my body from the oil spill. Just eating real food and getting so much fresh air, I felt better than I have ever felt in my life.”
The nature camp didn't work out, so Maggie found a salon and began cutting hair again.
“But of course, a haircut there was like $3,” she said. After three months in Costa Rica, she realized she'd have to return to the U.S.
A year ago, Maggie reopened her salon — but calls it a “saloon” — in Orange Beach, and her former customers are gradually returning, happy to see their friend again. She's glad to be back.
“Orange Beach is home to me,” she said. “I know so many people here, and a lot of people know me. This place is paradise.”
- WHO: Margaret Carruth, a.k.a. Moonshine Maggie
- BUSINESS: Sea Strands Hair Saloon in Orange Beach
- LOCATION: Behind the car wash on Canal Road
- HOURS: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., walk-ins welcome