Blow-Dry Bars Heat Up

Will women pay $35 for a professional blowout?

Blow-Dry Bars Heat Up
Photo by Stephanie Colgan

This has become the summer of the blow-dry battles, and I haven’t washed my own hair in weeks. Two blow-dry bars recently opened in the Twin Cities, with two more to come before summer’s end. These salons specialize in shampooing and hairstyling for $35—no cuts or color. Meanwhile, full-service salons responded with blow-dry specials—undercutting the blow-dry bars before they even opened.

It’s fascinating to watch this trend play out. For starters, three sets of local entrepreneurs were planning blow-dry bars simultaneously, all thinking they’d be the first in town. Then there are the rookie mistakes of the ones that announced they were opening in May only to find they were still not ready in mid-June, which gave full-service salons time to put together deals and steal a little thunder. Looming over it all is the cultural question: Are Twin Cities women going to spend $35 to get their hair styled often enough to sustain four dedicated blow-dry bars . . . or even one?

“We modernized a behavior that our grandmas used to do.”

Before Minneapolis had blow-dry bars, it had Jon Charles Salon, home of Blowdry Boot Camp, a class designed to expose women to the movie-star moment that is a good blowout and empower them to wield a round brush. Jon Charles Salons in Uptown and Wayzata are known for blowouts, and yet Charles believes blow-dry bars are a losing proposition in this market. Not enough Minnesotans are willing to pay for someone else to do their hair every week, he says. Salons make their money on higher-priced services and add-ons. Charles has found that blowout clients don’t buy hair products, either—they don’t need them.

But Alli Webb, founder of the original blow-dry bar, Los Angeles–based Drybar, considers blowouts an affordable luxury, like a manicure. Salons were charging as much for a blow-dry as they would for a cut, which prompted Webb to open her first Drybar in 2010. Now there are 15 nationwide. By the end of next year, 50 are projected (but no plans for the Twin Cities just yet).

“Women will come in for an event but leave feeling so amazing they start coming back every week,” Webb says. “We modernized a behavior that our grandmas used to do.”

The blow-dry bars in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, and Edina, like most that are opening across the nation, closely mimic Drybar’s formula. They offer a menu of blowout styles and frequent buyer incentives. Blowdry! in Uptown starts each service with a pampering scalp massage. Blast at Shops at West End has a VIP room for parties.

“Salons can’t offer the same type of experience that we can,” says Krstin Neafus, co-owner of Blast.

“We were expecting competition,” Neafus acknowledges. “Maybe not quite so soon.” I’d love to see blow-dry bars thrive here—it’s easier to get in at the last minute, without offending your own stylist. Surroundings are sleek and upbeat.

Even if some don’t make it, the onslaught of blow-dry bars has prompted major salons such as Juut, New Reflections, and Spalon Montage to reexamine their services and reduce the price of a blowout. And that is capitalism at its finest.

Where to Get Blowouts: Twin Cities Blow-Dry Bar Guide
A guide to the newest blow-dry bars, and where to get a blowout in the Twin Cities.