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Blowout bars are sprouting up across Charlotte

Callie Daum isn’t one to treat herself to weekly pedicures or monthly massages, but about two times every week, she spends 30 minutes of her lunch hour sitting in a salon chair, getting her hair washed and blow dried at a Myers Park “blowout” salon.

Daum discovered the service last August, when, on a whim, she cashed in a coupon for a free blowout at BLo ouT, a locally owned company with three blowout salons in the Charlotte area. Normally one to wash her own hair daily, she loved that her thick, collarbone-length hair still looked fresh and clean even two days later.

For the uninitiated, blowout salons – often called blowout bars – are one of the nation’s fastest growing trends in hair. From $30 to $60 (the price depends on the complexity of the hairdo), patrons have their hair washed and blow dried in a style that’s designed to last from two to five days.

There’s nary a scissor or tube of hair dye in sight.

The specialty salons have been around for years in cities like New York and Los Angeles, where homemakers and high-powered executives can be found perched side-by-side in rotating chairs.

“It is a luxury for most, but it’s become less of a luxury and more of a necessity for some,” akin to women’s growing reliance on nail salons, eyebrow waxing bars or massages, says Holly Carter, beauty director for PeopleStylewatch magazine.

“It’s become a part of some people’s daily routines,” Carter says. “We’re all so time crunched, and anything that can save us a half an hour, or even five minutes, we are willing to allocate resources to do it. It’ll definitely be around for a long time to come.”

In cities like Charlotte, the trend is taking flight.

Expanding landscape

Charlotte entrepreneur Anne Pipkin is believed to be the blowout trendsetter, after opening the first dedicated blowout salon, BLo ouT in 2011 on Third Street in Myers Park. She had some extra space at her spray tan salon, GorgeousGLO, and figured she’d add blowouts to her list of services.

Blowout business was so brisk, Pipkin opened a second BLo ouT salon in Sharon Corners near SouthPark mall in 2012, and a third last month in Cornelius. All have spray tan salons attached.

Vancouver-based blowout salon BLO opened a salon in Selwyn Corners in August, and local photographer Sarah Nelson Garcia and businessman JP Conklin are launching a blowout bar called Salon 1890 in Ballantyne Village this month.

“People will say, ‘My mother used to get her hair done once a week, too,’” Pipkin says. “It’s sort of a return to that.”

But the blowout bar environment is vastly different from the beauty parlors of old, where hairdressers would wind ladies’ hair into rows of curlers and women would sit under giant hood hairdryers.

Today’s blowout bars are sleek, with chic décor, a lounge atmosphere and cocktails.

The salons offer “menus” with photos and descriptions of the types of blowouts available. Pipkin’s menus at the three BLo ouT locations are the most entertaining, with the seven styles named for seven Charlotte neighborhoods. (“The Ballantyne is full, sleek, shiny and uber-straight. This bombshell blo-out is always noticed and envied,” while “the Myers Park blo-out is synonymous with pure-bred chic.”)

Pipkin herself says she was surprised by who her clients turned out to be after the first salon opened.

“It’s been interesting on an anthropological level. The first ones who came in regularly were not the ones I expected,” Pipkin says. “They were busy career women, who were sitting in the chair and working.”

Becoming a habit

Nelson Garcia and Conklin, who are readying the eight-chair and three-sink Salon 1890 in Ballantyne (named for the year the blow dryer was invented), say they’ll charge $39 and up for blowouts, while offering a $2,500 package that includes unlimited blowouts for a year.

In their salon, women face into the interior of the space, with a bar in the middle of the room serving beverages. They’re targeting busy executives looking for shortcuts in their beauty routines, as well as women who use the service as a pampering escape, and maybe a girls-night-out destination.

“It really becomes more of a lifestyle habit, like going to the gym,” Nelson Garcia says. “Women who have moved here from bigger markets are used to it.”

Nelson Garcia and other blowout salon owners are counting on more women like Daum discovering the convenience of regular blowouts.

Now pregnant with her first child due in June, Daum, 37, a program manager for Novant Health, says the blowouts are a time and energy saver.

“I try to do it on a weekday,” she says. “If I can save some time in the morning or at night, then I’m willing to pay $30 to not have to worry about” washing her own hair.

“My blowout,” she says, “is like my massage or spa treatment.”

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