Longtime Resident Introduces Fairfax County to Blow Dry Bars
When Jennifer Weiss opened her first Cherry Blow Dry Bar, she knew little about styling hair or running a retail business.
As a corporate executive in the publishing industry, Weiss frequently had to give presentations and attend galas and other events where guests were expected to look polished and professional. However, her hair never seemed to cooperate.
So, when she decided to leave her job as senior vice president of the company 1105 Government Information Group in 2013, Weiss wanted to start her own business, getting involved specifically in the growing trend of salons that specialize in blowouts.
“I felt there was a real need for people to be able to go and get blow outs for a low price,” Weiss said. “If you do go to a full-service salon to get a blowout, it’s often very, very expensive and not that good.”
Because her expertise lay more in marketing, finance and management than hair or retail, Weiss opted to manage a franchise for an existing company, rather than starting a new one from scratch, since she could follow their business model and take advantage of their support and resources.
After extensive research, she settled on Cherry Blow Dry Bar.
Cherry Blow Dry Bar launched in 2013 and has locations in California, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, and now, Virginia.
Weiss opened her first outlet in January 2015 on Highland Street in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington. She started another Cherry Blow Dry Bar later that year in November in Fairfax’s Mosaic District.
The New York native has lived in Northern Virginia for 25 years, and she chose the Mosaic District as the location of her Fairfax County franchise because she has enjoyed visiting the mixed-use community since shops and restaurants started opening in 2012 and 2013.
Weiss says she likes that Mosaic has a combination of national chains and smaller, locally-owned businesses.
“I knew it as a customer, someone that came here and enjoyed it,” she said of the Mosaic District. “It’s easy to park, a lot of great shops and restaurants…I love the company that manages it. They really focus on making sure that all of the retailers are successful. They really support us.”
Sandwiched between a nail lounge and a Thai restaurant, Cherry Blow Dry Bar strikes a tricky aesthetic note of chic yet approachable, just like the other venues in the still-developing Mosaic District.
Outside, construction vehicles and trucks crowd the narrow street, water colored orange by dirt creating puddles on the asphalt, but inside, the blow dry bar is all sleek white surfaces and open spaces.
About 10 red low-back swivel stools face a countertop that stretches down the length of the room and is littered with mirrors, blow dryers and various hair products. Customers can also go to the other side of the room to lean back in black leather chairs while getting their hair washed by one of Cherry Blow Dry Bar’s 12 stylists.
A waiting room at the front of the venue features a cart with magazines and citrus water next to a small table with a tea kettle, and a flat-screen TV plays the news on mute while pop and soft rock music humming through overhead speakers fill the room.
Weiss says her goal is to create an environment that feels comfortable for all of her customers, from businesswomen checking in for an appointment before going to work to friends celebrating a birthday or bridal shower.
“They’re getting pampered, so it’s a stress-free environment,” Weiss said. “We want to create just a really customer-focused experience.”
Though Cherry Blow Dry Bar primarily focuses on blowouts, the salon offers other beauty services, such as tape-in hair extensions, treatments, makeup application, and even scalp massages.
The two services that Weiss’s business doesn’t offer, however, are cutting and coloring, differentiating it from a full-service salon.
What separates Cherry Blow Dry Bar from other blow dry bar chains, such as Drybar in Tysons Corner or FLOW Blow Dry and Beauty Bar in Reston’s Plaza America, is its emphasis on memberships.
While those other outlets offer memberships of their own, Cherry Blow Dry Bar has more options, including a frequent dryer membership for unlimited blowouts at $149 per month and a pre-paid annual membership that lets customers get 12 blowouts in a year.
The salon gets one-time visitors as well, but the memberships allow Weiss to cultivate a base of regular, long-term customers.
“Literally we have women that come in every day. That’s really exciting to see,” Weiss said.
Weiss says that, aside from adjusting to the grueling schedule of managing essentially two businesses open from dawn to dusk seven days a week, the biggest challenge for her has been finding employees with the right level of passion, talent and willingness to learn.
Cherry Blow Dry Bar stylists have generally attended cosmetology school and are already licensed in the field, but when hired, they’re still required to undergo a week-long training process in order to learn Cherry’s particular techniques. They also continue to take classes in specific skills such as braiding or hair extensions while on the job.
The goal of the required employee training is to maintain consistency in the quality and style of services provided across Cherry Blow Dry Bar’s six existing franchises.
“We want that consistency in results,” Weiss said. “The technique also teaches speed too, because this is about convenience. We want people to be able to come in and out in less than an hour and not feel like they’re sitting in a salon for hours.”
As Mosaic District’s Cherry Blow Dry Bar approaches the end of its first year in operation, Weiss hopes to expand her business’s visibility and has started contemplating opening a third franchise in Northern Virginia, though she hasn’t settled on any particular locations yet.
The former media executive calls the past year and a half “exhausting” and says with a laugh that, if she were to do it all over again, she probably would’ve waited to start a second franchise instead of opening two in less than a year.
The career change and new experiences have also been rewarding, though. Dismissing the notion that the hair and beauty industry inherently reinforces unhealthy body images for women, Weiss says the goal of Cherry Blow Dry Bar is to make women feel good about themselves as they are.
“We’re really about making women look and feel beautiful,” Weiss said. “[It’s about] giving them that confidence of when you feel really polished and professional and put-together that you can kind of conquer anything.”