BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
“We’re taking everything we are already doing and making it better.”
Amber Woodall isn’t new to the hair game: Alkali Hair Studio has been open now over ten years as of this past April, and before that, she worked as an educator in the hair field. She is excited about the new larger location of Alkali Hair Studio, slated to open this fall.
“This is a move for Alkali. Air (Alkali’s blow dry bar that does blow outs, up-do’s, and makeup) is staying put,” Amber said, “This move allows us more space to upgrade the services we already have and expand what we offer.”
If you haven’t heard of Alkali, you’re missing out. Walking in, you get escorted to a semi-private alcove where you talk to your stylist. The conversation, even when you’re new, isn’t a cookie-cutter, “look at this photo on Pinterest and make me look like this model” talk. Each one of Amber’s stylists ask questions about your hair, the time you spend on it, what you want to do, and what aspects you’re specifically looking to change.
After a conversation that feels very much like one with a new friend, magic happens. You walk out feeling pretty amazing, and time goes by – and you need another appointment. This time in the semi-private alcove, you get asked something most stylists don’t ask – was there anything you didn’t like about your hair or style? Was there anything too hard to do and fix?
“We’re not a group that has egos too big for constructive critique. We want you to walk out and love your hair,” said Amber.
And they welcome feedback! They’ll take it and grow with it – the goal is really to get you to be able to do your hair, too, and well – not just for that one day of “salon-perfect” then “frustrated ponytail” every day after. The process repeats and every time gets better and better…and suddenly, you’re in a relationship. It’s serious. And it’s with your stylist at Alkali.
I know this for certain because not only am I a client, I’ve been one for years, and consider my hairstylist, Colleen, my friend.
She also understands my hair, how much effort I put into it, how much time I spend on it daily, and for special occasions. And let me tell you – it makes a difference.
“We want to think about what will fit your hair and lifestyle, as well as what is the most polished look YOU can achieve with your lifestyle and health of your hair,” said Amber. “We educate clients by spending time with them.”
This service will carry with Alkali in their move – a move that allows for additional stylists, an esthetician, a larger space for product, and more.
“I’m getting to carry on with some visions with the brand that I haven’t been able to do before,” said Amber. The move to skincare isn’t surprising: Alkali and Amber have always been attentive to products and ingredients. “This move to add skincare started selfishly to avoid certain bad ingredients and find things that work and aren’t harmful.”
Picture this: you spend time in your semi-private alcove with your stylist. You can talk, have a conversation, and get to know one another. After a while, you’re going to start talking about more than hair – maybe you’re thinking about your skin after looking at your face for the duration of your haircut. “With this relationship, people ask all the time about higher-end services. We’re constantly referring people to do these things, I finally thought, why don’t we just offer it in house?”
Amber intends to continue this customer education practice in her new place, with skincare – if you’ve taken a look at the skin market lately, you’ve probably realized how many products are out there. “Just like how it goes with hair, people can do damage by not knowing things. It’s the same with skin: there are a lot of things on the market now that can do damage and thin out the skin,” said Amber. “I want to help people do the most good with the least amount of harm with their hair and skin.”
This passion is relayed through each stylist: it’s all about building trust. The team at Alkali share why they make choices in products, and why they might use one thing and not another with their clients. The studio now is far from a hustle and bustle atmosphere, and that helps with the trust-building – and will continue in the new space. “That personal and cozy feel builds trust. We’ve always done private appointments and never been a chair to chair to chair studio,” said Amber. “I’ve always valued time for stylists to get to know their clients. I want my team to feel invested in, own their work, and know they are paid their worth.”
I think many of us tend to think of a salon as the stereotypical movie experience: loud, hairdryers, chatting and gossiping, listening to conversations four chairs over. The semi-private alcoves at Alkali were something new for me, and as a customer, it’s fantastic. Colleen and I can chat about hair, skin, eyebrows, food, adventures – and I never feel like people are eavesdropping, or that I’m listening to someone else’s life. The experience truly gives you space to get to know your stylist – and for them to get to know you, your lifestyle, and your hair. If you aren’t going to put hours of work in learning how to perfectly curl your hair, your stylist needs to know that! Amber and her team at Alkali want your hair to look amazing even when you aren’t leaving their doors with a fresh cut.
Aside from expanding relationships, adding stylists and services, focusing on products, Amber gets to live out another part of her vision with the larger space: recycling color. More space means more room to focus on lessening their carbon footprint as a salon. “The space will help us give back. We need it to package and ship color, foil, hair, and single-use products,” said Amber. “It’s allowing me to express my whole vision, far more so than just focusing on the daily grind.”
ALKALI, 407 West End Blvd; Winston Salem, NC 27101
Facebook and IG @alkalihairstudio