“I had never had a blow out. I didn't know what it was.”
At a quarter after 5 p.m. on a regular Tuesday, customers were showing up — one, then another, then another — at Blowout Co. at 1301 Cowart St., downtown, in the space formerly occupied by Bob Barker Boutique vintage furniture store.
With smiles on their faces, the customers, all women, came for a shampoo and a style. And a glass of champagne, and the coffee bar, and all the smells and sounds of the neighborhood salon — which doesn't have any scissors, because it doesn't do any actual cutting — and the chatter and laughs of visiting and unwinding at the end of a work day, and in some cases, of preparing to go right back out on the town from there.
Blowout Co. has no competition in town. Or for the most part, in the state. Or the region.
The concept, a salon offering professional shampoo and styling services and that's it, is more of a coastal, New York City and Los Angeles establishment.
Or was, until Leslie Embry, a Nashville resident, brought it to Tennessee.
Back in September 2011, Embry was on a trip in California. She stumbled on a blow-dry bar and she went inside, where she discovered the blow-dry concept for the first time. And she loved it.
"I had never had a blow out," she said. "I didn't know what it was."
But after getting a shampoo and style — think "just left the salon" feeling, she said — Embry said the stylists "made me feel so beautiful."
"I would only look like that three times a year," she said.
Embry was a history teacher for 12, pony-tailed years before she switched gears, opened a blow-dry bar of her own and became a self-made entrepreneur and business owner.
She started with a single blow-dry bar in Nashville. She now has two locations in Nashville and one in Brentwood, and one now in Chattanooga.
Will there someday be two locations in Chattanooga?
"We'll wait and see how busy it gets," said Embry. "I don't know. We'll see."
The lone Chattanooga shop right now employs eight staffers, about a half-and-half mix of full- and part-time workers. Some of the part-timers work at full-service salons also.
Embry graduated from Sewanee: the University of the South, and remembers spending weekend nights in Chattanooga years ago, hitting the movies and grabbing pizza.
She said she loves the city — and can't believe how much it's changed — and the space on Cowart Street, in the up-and-coming Southside, just felt right.
"We lucked into her," said Nini Davenport, a local partner in the Chattanooga shop.
Introducing the concept was a little easier in Chattanooga because there was already a group of potential clients who knew what a blow-dry bar was.
Andrea Crouch, another Blowout Co. partner, said for those who knew of the concept "It's like 'Oh my gosh, I was hoping it would happen.'"
Blowout Co. opened on Nov. 9, had its three-day charity give away in the middle of November and celebrated a grand opening on Nov. 19.
The shop sells Italian, farm-to-salon hair products and Chattanooga-made jewelry.
The salon is open seven days a week and offers a variety of packages (including a $35 shampoo and style combo). Free parking also is available.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480.