The Blowout Salon Trend Expands to the Windy City
By Allison Duncan
The newest hair salon to open in Chicago only offers one service, albeit in a variety of ways. Blowtique (1 E. Huron, 312.280.2400), located in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, is the latest blow-dry only salon to open in the United States. Having now been open since the first weekend in June 2012, we spoke with owner Fiona McEntee to learn more about her unique business concept.
McEntee, native to Ireland, grew up working in her mother’s salon in Dublin. “In Ireland, most women get their hair blown-out all the time,” says McEntee. “When I moved to the states, I was surprised by how expensive a blow-out could be and as a result, women would not get it done regularly. Thus, Blowtique was born!” McEntee’s salon offers blowouts at a $35 price-point so women don’t feel guilty about getting their hair styled frequently. One of Blowtique’s founding principles is making the over-priced blowout a thing of the past.
Blowtique has been overwhelmed by its early success. “The first few weeks have been better than we could have imagined,” says McEntee. “We have been booked solid for Saturdays and some evenings during the week. It’s been really great meeting our new clients and neighbors.” McEntee goes on to say that many of their new clients live nearby and have expressed excitement about the easily accessible salon.
Finding the right location for Blowtique was one of the biggest challenges that McEntee encountered in starting her business. They knew they wanted to be downtown around the Magnificent Mile but found it difficult to find the ideal location. However, she says, with some perseverance and a great realtor, they found their flagship salon space and could not be happier.
McEntee has lived in Chicago since moving to the United States and considers the city her second home. She chose to open Blowtique in the city because she loves the friendliness of the people and the laidback Midwestern attitude. “The people in Chicago are second to none,” says McEntee. “That combined with amazing architecture, extreme cleanliness, and a fun and vibrant ambience make Chicago unique.”
Partly in tribute to the city, each style at Blowtique is named after shopping streets in major U.S. metropolitan areas. The ‘Signature Chicago’ look is the Magnificent, which is a classic blowout with lightweight body.
McEntee says customers’ blowout selection has been quite varied so far with many choosing the Magnificent and the Deep Ellum, a southern look of full-bodied curls. McEntee explains that a popular hair trend this summer is ‘hair chalking,’ which involves temporarily coloring partial sections of the hair with your shade of choice, and it later washes out. Blowtique is offering a ‘Festapalooza’ look this summer, braided and tousled, with complimentary hair chalk to keep up with the latest hair trends. But aside from the diversity of blowout options, the typical customer for Blowtique has proven to be every woman.
“Our ideal customer really is everyone,” says McEntee. “Every Blowtique guest is different – they’re all ages and come from all walks of life. We recently did our first ‘petite’ (blowout for children) for a two-year-old!” McEntee expects they will have customers who never style their own hair and take advantage of Blowtique’s ease of scheduling and low price point. She also looks forward to welcoming guests who visit once a week or on special occasions to feel spoiled.
McEntee emphasizes that a blowout is not just for one day, and Blowtique’s experts provide tips and tricks for extending the blowout’s life. Blowtique’s Creative Director Rhona Kane was one of the top stylists in Ireland’s busiest salon before joining the team at Blowtique. “She has recruited and trained an amazing team of stylists and we are so lucky to have her and them,” says McEntee.
McEntee and Kane oversaw an extensive recruitment process to obtain the best stylists for Blowtique. They interviewed potential candidates for a week and completed intensive training modules to ensure they had the best in the business, explains McEntee. “We paired that skill with killer personalities and vibrant energy, and we couldn’t be happier with our amazing team,” says McEntee.
More than just a great team, Blowtique sets itself apart by exclusively offering Oribe products, which recently launched a luxury hair care line. All of the furniture in the salon is custom made, and two of their chandeliers were flown in from Tipperary Crystal in Ireland as a way to incorporate McEntee’s Irish heritage into her new home on State and Huron.
Based on the success of the flagship salon, there are already plans for a Blowtique expansion. “We have already earmarked a few locations, and we expect to be announcing something in the not-so-distant future,” says McEntee. “We love seeing the delight on our clients’ faces as they leave Blowtique with fabulous hair, and we can’t wait to offer our services to more people so they too can be ‘blown away’!”