Vivian Arpino, owner of two BloOuts Blow Dry Bars in the Chicago suburbs, has found her niche. As the former hairstylist for the Oprah show, she says, “I became the queen of touching people up.” With just an hour to get anywhere from two to 36 heads camera-ready, she learned to work fast. “I could take a curly head of hair and blow it out straight in about seven minutes—dry,” she says.
So when the show ended and Arpino decided to return to her pre-Oprah salon roots—as an owner this time—her path was clear. She opened her first BloOuts in 2013, in the small, affluent community of Highland Park, IL.
Choosing that location was the first hurdle successfully cleared. Arpino says she first looked in the city, but found rents prohibitive for a business that charged just $35 per service. The money, she realized, was in the ‘burbs, where rents were also happily lower. “This is a luxury; it’s not a necessity,” Arpino says of the service she provides. “Location is key.”
When it came time to open a second shop, Arpino examined her current clientele and noticed that while most came from within three contiguous suburbs, there were a few who came from just outside that radius. Her second location, in Winnetka, was positioned to capitalize on that market, where there was clearly a need. Like the first shop, it also pulls from a few neighboring communities. “You don’t want to rely just on the town you’re in,” Arpino advises.
Her biggest challenge, she says, has been staffing. While her experience was tailor-made for a blow-dry bar, she says she quickly realized that others’ was not. “You need experience. You need to know how to work with different textures,” she says. “You need to know how to do a blow-out on someone you’ve just met. When you have random people in your chair, and you haven’t done their haircut, it’s complicated.”
Managing employees was also new to Arpino, but there she says she had a guiding light. “Oprah was the best boss in the world,” she says. “I want my employees to love where they work, so I try to always treat everyone with respect. I learned that from watching her.”