On a quiet stretch of Wisconsin Avenue in upper Georgetown, a new salon is buzzing with smiling clients. In this neighborhood known for high-end beauty parlors, one more would hardly merit a mention — except that if you need a cut, color, a trim for your bangs or a couple of highlights, this is not the place for you.
A shampoo and a blowout are the only services available at Drybar, which opened its 17th and 18th locations last week in Georgetown and Bethesda. By year’s end, the company says, it will have 25 salons in six states and the District.
So who is the market for a one-service salon?
●K Street lobbyists, lawyers and Capitol Hill staffers looking for perfectly coiffed hair for that big presentation to a client or a boss;
●High-tech workers getting ready for a hot date with a dreamy guy;
●Public relations executives seeking a killer look for a charity gala;
●Or anyone wanting a treat after a hellish week.
For $40 and about 45 minutes, Drybar offers a quick solution.
Judging by the more than 500 customers served at the two locations during opening weekend, it’s a solution that Washington women are yearning for.
“I’m so glad you’re here” was the repeated refrain of women giggling delightedly as they walked into the Georgetown location. One of them was Alex Moses, 27, who says she has been following Drybar on Facebook, urging the company to come to D.C.
Indeed, it was a number of requests for a Washington location via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook that swayed Drybar’s founder to set up shop in the area. That and the seemingly endless pool of professional women who want to look their best. Drybar’s doors open at 7 a.m. on weekdays and stay open till 10 some evenings. Weekend hours are 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.
Drybar is the brain child of Alli Webb, 37, a longtime stylist who recognized that a single-service salon could fill a need in the market and cost less to run than a full-service salon. The first Drybar opened its doors in 2010 in the ritzy suburbs of Los Angeles.
“I was living there at the time and had a following and lots of vocal support,” Webb remembers. The Web site “Daily Candy ran a story, and we opened to a fully booked shop.”
In addition to accommodating working women’s schedules, Drybar pampers its clientele. The appealing design scheme features white, yellow and silver, with curvy mirrors and photos of starlets adorning the walls. Chandeliers made of bright-yellow hair dryers provide whimsical lighting. Champagne, mimosas and white wine are complimentary, as are sparkling water, soda, coffee, and bite-size cookies and pretzels in the Georgetown salon. (Montgomery County liquor laws prohibit the free alcoholic beverages in Bethesda.)
Although Drybar caters to women with all types of hair, many customers, like the curly-haired Webb, have long, thick tresses that they have trouble taming themselves into a sleek, groomed style.
In keeping with the bar theme, the services are named for cocktails. Order a Straight Up, the most basic service; a Cosmopolitan, a loose, wavy do; or a Mai Tai, a bedhead, messy look.
Rita Laddbush, 27, assistant director for summer camps at Georgetown Preparatory School, opted to have her hair done in a Mai Tai for a wedding that evening. Her assessment: “It looks a lot better than when I came in. I can’t do this to my hair, so I’m going to pay somebody.”
Amy Skidmore, 42, who lives in Arlington and works in sales, found Drybar browsing the Web and went to one in New York. She likes the idea of having her hair look great without spending the time to get a cut, and she thinks the price is affordable for a once-a-month treat. “It’s a psychological thing; $50 would be too much,” she said.
Missy Gibbons, 26, a political consultant, says Drybar is reasonably priced compared with the $60 to $70 she pays for a blow-out at a salon in Alexandria. She’s considering a $75 monthly membership, which includes two blowouts, a 10-minute head massage and a 10 percent product discount.
So far, Drybar’s competitors in other cities, including Blo Blow Dry Bar and Halo Blow Dry Bar, have not entered the D.C. market. However, Drybar’s opening announcement has been a wake-up call to full-service salons here. Salon Ilo, a few blocks down Wisconsin from Drybar, sent a mass e-mail to its clients in late September alerting them to its “early-bird special.” From Tuesday to Friday, 8-9:30 a.m., customers can get an “express blow-dry” for $40.
Webb says she has brought back an old-fashioned tradition of women going to the beauty parlor to have their hair washed and styled.
Lauren Davis, 24, who works on Capitol Hill, agrees. “It’s an instant lift, a quick way to get a pick-me-up.”
Georgetown: 1825 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202-609-8644. Free parking in the back. Bethesda: 4840 Bethesda Ave. 240-483-4277. Parking at Elm Street garage, 4950 Elm St. Hours: Mon-Wed. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Thurs-Fri. 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. , Sun. 9 a.m.-7 p.m.